Company X is an interesting mystery to solve.
Picture that you are part of a big data investigative team formed by your company’s CEO and you have one mission: discover who has killed the analytics in your firm.
Just a few months ago everything seemed on track in Company X. The CEO had announced that your company had embarked on several ambitious projects to bring the company’s operation to the digital age.
Several initiatives had been launched: consolidating data in a data warehouse, implementing business intelligence and predictive analytics tools, hiring new staff and consultants to train and evangelize everyone in the company of the merits and advantages of using data and analytics in operations and decisions. In the span of a few months, business analytics, financial forecasts, recommendation engines, and data mining activities were all in full swing. Company X was going to conquer the industry, using data as a weapon for competitive advantage.
Then suddenly, information ceased to flow in Company X. Reports stopped being produced, data was now impossible to extract, and no new business insights could be generated. Business was grinding to a halt and the CEO and board were furious.
As part of the big data investigations team, you round up the list of people who were recently involved in the flurry of big data and analytics initiatives in the company. In the tradition of the renowned board game Cluedo – by process of elimination you now need to interview and identify how analytics died in Company X from among the suspects.
Fortunately a few individual dossiers exist and you now begin the tedious task of piecing together the mystery of the missing information.
Colonel Mustard (Ret.)
Chief Data, Transformation, Digital, and Technology Officer
"I don't just manage the data in this company. I AM THE DATA in this company."
Although ex-military before joining the corporate world, no one remembers what Mustard did in Company X before his high profile appointment by the board (some suspect he was responsible for fax and photocopy machine maintenance – right when thermal paper was still in wide use).
As CDTDTO (cuh-datuh-datuh-oh), Mustard is the titular owner of all the data initiatives being implemented by the company – and in his mind by association the owner of any data in any initiative in any department. In fact, in the two days following his appointment, he cross-recruited some of his old military colleagues to act as bloodhounds – sniffing out the regular or adhoc use of any data and data-related software in the company. Today no one gets to extract an iota of data or install any analytical software or spreadsheet without Mustard and his agents knowing. No business owner can engage in any form of analysis without seeking the approval of the CDTDTO.
Col. Mustard is a big data conference junkie and hobnobs with many big data and IT personalities like Mr. Green.
BI Lead and Open Source Champion
"Wait that's not supposed to happen. Let me check stackoverflow first. Physical servers? F**K PHYSICAL SERVERS!"
Many Company X managers have actually come to admire Scarlett and her open source message to reduce costs, and many departments have begun to adopt open-source tools under her guidance, with staff and analysts enjoying the hours to days to weeks to months spent discovering neat new tricks to do with open source and googling developer forums for the impact of missing commas, semi-colons, and parentheses in their code. She is often seen having coffee with Mr. Green and Professor Plum.
Certified Analytics Ninja and Digital Transformation Evangelist
"Big Data has solved everything from reducing traffic to stopping the spread of deadly disease. We will optimize the 4 Ps with the 3 Vs and bring about a disruptive digital transformation."
It was Col. Mustard who first met the smooth talking Mr. Green at a Silicon Valley data conference and the two hit it off naturally. Mr. Green is an advocate of all things data – especially BIG DATA. Green was invited to provide an inspirational talk to the company board and subsequently the rest of the company about the merits of using BIG DATA to improving Company X's profitability and market share. The board bought Green's advice and he continues to be a full-time consultant to Company X where he is known to provide data vision and thought leadership to everyone he meets even occasionally the building floor cleaners.
People who know Green say he doesn’t actually DO any analytics himself (or anything for that matter). There was some rumor that Green was actually one of the bartenders at the conference open bar and not really an analytics guru when Mustard first bumped into him but that has never been proven.
Could be nothing but Mr. Green and Miss Scarlett are also rumored to be dating.
General Manager, Data and Analytics Vendor
"Yes our solution can do that. My team can do everything."
A crisp talking tech entrepreneur who convinced Col. Mustard, Mrs. White and the company board to buy all the hardware, software, and data services from her fledgling IT company. Although many dismiss Mrs. Peacock as merely a salesman – she has a fast mind – and can easily compute the number of new hardware and software licenses she can sell while talking to her prospects such as Col. Mustard, Mr. Green and Professor Plum.
Apart from buying the hardware and software from Peacock, Company X has also outsourced all things related to data to her firm who in turn re-outsources it all to Peacock's global partners (read: sweatshops from South Asia). Mrs. Peacock answers emails quickly and is often the first line of defense with any data-related issue involving her company's services. She however refuses to support any problem related to Miss Scarlett's open-source initiatives even if the data Scarlett analyzes resides in Peacock's hardware.
When she’s not chatting with Col. Mustard, Mrs. Peacock is often seen waiting at Mrs. White’s floor.
IT Procurement Officer
"I'm not saying we can't afford it, but even if we could, we don't have the budget."
She has been around for decades and rose from the ranks as a lowly clerk to head of technology procurement. Mrs. White runs all purchasing initiatives with an iron fist – no acquisitions are possible without an RFP (request for proposal) and at least 10 competing bids – and the lowest bid always wins, unless of course other executives like Col. Mustard insist on a particular vendor – in which case Mrs. White will insist that the respective specific vendor provide an even lower price.
Mrs. White is known to drive bargains so unreasonable that at least one vendor has had to file for bankruptcy as a result of winning a bid and many IT sales people assigned to cover her have been known to switch careers or adopt second jobs knowing that their commissions would never happen under her watch.
Only one vendor has survived Mrs. White's onslaught: Mrs. Peacock - who has somehow managed to provide hardware, software, and services at a cost even lower than Mrs. White's expectations.
Chief Data Scientist, Statistical Chemist, Information Physicist, PhD, CSSBB
"What did one support vector say to another support vector? I feel so marginalized. You can laugh now."
Dr. Plum is always on the move and talks fast about anything. He was hired by Col. Mustard from the local university to help train the company staff on the use of advanced analytics and machine learning to solve business problems.
Professor Plum does not advocate the use of any specific tools – whether Mrs. Peacock’s commercial software or Miss Scarlett’s open-source – and instead prefers to stay within the esoteric realm of mathematical and statistical terms when discussing anything to anyone. A true academic, he solves neural networks by hand and cracks nasty jokes in machine code. In his spare time, he loves to solve for Schrodinger's equation on the rare chance that he's uncertain about what to do that particular day.
Dr. Plum and Mr. Green are often prominent mainstays in any big data analytics project kickoff meetings but Dr. Plum is never really seen handling any data directly – preferring to let Miss Scarlett do the dirty work.
So can you guess what happened in Company X? Do you think it’s the fault of just one person or a conspiracy? Can you find the culprit and suggest ways to save the company?
Good luck and happy hunting.
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Dominic Vincent Ligot
Doc is the founder of Cirrolytix where he helps organizations gain competitive advantage through data and analytics. He also loves murder mysteries and is an avid Cluedo player.
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