Now What?

One planning season, as we were reviewing metrics and processes, building spreadsheets, developing assumptions, forecasting our opportunities and potential challenges, a new senior manager came into the picture. We were rushing around gathering our data and putting together our analytic plans, but not a big deal, right? We’ll pull together a quick program review, we knew our programs backwards and forwards, the performance metrics were seared into our brains – easy. But not this year…professionally, it was a turning point for me.

At this initial overview for the new senior manager, prior to the multiple rounds of Plan tweaking, we started to review our year-to-date program performance metrics (as we always did) and was told to…stop! “I’ve seen the deck – so what?” Silence ensued. What does she mean, so what? With what we were proposing, we could up our program revenues 30%! And still, she said “So what?”

She explained that her focus was household penetration AND retention and while our ideas for the next year were good (pending additional reviews, of course!), how do they translate into penetration and retention?

It then dawned on me – we were not communicating! We were using an outdated framework for our discussions! Our analyses and tactics didn’t totally translate into desired business impact!

That year, we modified our analytics to address “So What?”, but in so doing, it also challenged our business creativity because it begged the logical next question “Now What?” – how do we translate our new analyses, our tables, our charts, our visualizations, our insights into organizational activities and programs, into impact?

We got through that planning season and the business had a very successful following year. For me, the benefit of that experience continues today – as an analyst, it gave me an enduring appreciation for communications and change management (don’t assume anything – ask and clarify!) but more importantly as a business person, it helped me focus on relevance and creativity (How is my work addressing the business concern? How can my work be leveraged?)

In addition to formal project management tools, “So what?” and “Now what?” are quick and easy ways of viewing analytics to help frame project scope, maintain focus, ensure alignment with organizational needs, and build connections to use cases. What questions do you ask? Let us know!

George Ling
Analytics Hall of Fame Awards Judge

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