A Justification of Making Things Up?

March 13, 2019

I read “Gut Feelings Often Trump Real Data in Driving Business Decisions, Says Forrester.” The write up is interesting for several reasons. First, Forrester, like other mid tier consulting firms, generates reports about companies with more subjective than objective data. Examples range from pricing data, information from customers about the product or service offered by a company, and concrete information about management compensation, financial performance, and similar data. The metaphor of a wave is compelling but data within would be helpful.

Second, the notion of “real data” underscores that talk about data is often just that—chatter, jargon, baloney. “Real data” are difficult to obtain. For example, a company provides a system which tracks and indexes content in the “hidden Web.” What’s the benchmark? How much data are tracked? How much are not indexable? Other questions like this can be answered but time and money are one hurdle. The real reason is that no one wants to make the effort to get data which can be analyzed and then evaluated in head to head comparisons. “Real data”, such as information spewed from financial analysis spreadsheets, is not examined with care. Dig in and the numbers can wobble. Did a scrutinized company actually cut expenses, or does the spreadsheet report that data in bucket A went away and data in bucket B became larger?

Third, the write up itself emphasizes that visualization, not grubby numbers is where the action is. The future of analysis may be an anigif showing the harried decision maker what he or she needs to know. Who has time to work through data by hand, then comparing those data to other information from other sources?

Quite a write up. Interesting implications. Subjective analysis washes away facts in my experience.

Stephen E Arnold, March 13, 2019

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