How to Avoid a Mistake in Buying Analytics Tools | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

We need to stop using the term “analytics.” Yes, I know analytics is red hot. Practically every service provider has an analytics group. IBM has poured billions into acquiring analytics software companies and has built a formidable capability in this area. The marketplace is full of anecdotes about how powerful and impactful analytics can be, and enterprises are enamored with the possibilities from this capability. But if you’re a buyer, you need to refuse to have conversations about analytics.

Beware of engaging with vendors and providers talking about analytics — it’s a waste of your time on a conversation that is really a distraction and, if successful, will result in your making a wasted investment. My advice is to show the door immediately to any vendor or provider trying to talk with you about analytics without first making sure they understand your organization and know what business problem you are trying to solve.

Don’t let a vendor or provider talk to you in abstract terms about the capabilities of analytics or tell you anecdotes that are not specific to your company’s situation and business issue. If you force the salesperson to talk about how a tool is the solution that will deliver the capability you need to meet a specific objective, you’ll eliminate much of the noise and get answers and solutions much quicker.

Shape the discussion to your business relevance. For example, let’s say your business problem is managing your company’s reputation and you’re concerned about the unintended consequences of social media destroying your firm’s reputation. The vendor or provider needs to discuss tools you can deploy to monitor the Web and identify where you have potential problems so you can nip reputation problems in the bud.

Another example: your business objective may be to limit or control the amount of credit card fraud in your retail stores. With this clear perspective on what you’re trying to accomplish, the vendor or provider needs to identify tools for fraud detection.

Insist on an analytics-free discussion. Make sure the vendor or provider converses with you in terms specific to your business problem. The moment they veer from that path, explain that you’re not interested in the “value” of “analytics” and you expect them instead to discuss specific answers to your problem. If they don’t do it, show them the door.

This will separate the wheat from the chaff, the solution pretenders from the reality — and it’s likely also to lower the cost of your solution.

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