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Where is your data hiding?

When attempting to generate value from data, many organisations intuitively  turn to areas of their business that produce lots of it. However, these data rich areas are not necessarily where one should look for valuable insights.

A good rule of thumb to follow when attempting to build an analytical capability within an organisation is to constantly ask oneself: “What is the purpose of establishing this particular process?”. If the answer to the questions happens to be “to analyse data” or “to deliver value, but delivery mechanism is not defined”, then it is likely that your efforts fell prey to a common mistake. Data analysis capabilities do not bring value! A detailed business plan, with well-defined purpose, and data analysis, which is integrated into the decision-making processes of the organisation, is what creates value. Blindly analysing data without a purpose, in hopes of finding much-needed insight is a waste of resources. And this brings up a second question: “What data should be analysed?”.

All businesses collect data and large amounts of it. However, it is a logical fallacy to think that the area with the most data will produce the most insight. Additionally, integrating external data into business operations may prove to be a significant return on investment. Which data pool we select depends entirely on what purpose we want to achieve. In some cases, acquiring professional strategic advice is the key to success in data analytics efforts.

~Alexey Mitko

Categories: Uncategorized

Quick communication exercise

February 5, 2013 Leave a comment

This is a small exercise that I picked up, illustrating how easily we are susceptible to misunderstandings, even in situations where no misunderstandings are to be expected.

“A lake exercise”

  1. Imagine a lake, let it be classical and generic.
  2. Now all of your team members should do the same.
  3. Let each team member describe his or her lake. Let them elaborate on its size, scenery, vessels or colour.
  4. As they do so, it becomes quite apparent that our descriptions of lakes are rather different.

The important question to ask is: “How can we trust no misunderstandings to occur if such a simple term as a lake creates such a variation in description. We often assume that common terms are universally understood. However, words such as simple, convenient, good or bad are subject to exactly the same interpretation. In a way no single person speaks the same language, simply because meanings attached to the words are based on the unique experiences of that particular individual.

Thus it is important to ensure that extra care is taken in situations where parties come from different backgrounds. Senior and junior, consultant and client, ambitious and timid, all of these personal differences create different lakes.

~ Alexey Mitko

Categories: Uncategorized

Project Management in 311 words

November 23, 2012 Leave a comment

If a graduate is highly effective in his/her current operational role, will he/she be promoted to a managerial position? Occasionally it does happen, but it is important to note that a managerial position requires a completely different set of skills, most important of which is project management.

Project Management as a science is an attempt to break down the process of “making ideas come to life” into manageable sub processes. Project Management as an art is a challenge in unraveling interconnected issues in reality and taking appropriate actions in an environment of limited information. The Science of Project management is described in PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge), while the Art part comes with experience.

There are two key concepts in project management that I find to be fundamental in many other areas of the business. One of them is the “Plan-Execute-Control-Improve” cycle, which is helpful in reminding us to think our action through before we act, compare our performance to our plan, and to learn from deviations that occur. If any part of this cycle is dropped, then the quality of your product will suffer, whether the product is an actual project or another intellectual endeavor.

The second concept, which is more directly applicable to project management, is an interconnection between the project scope, project cost, and project time. If you plan to cover more ground on your project, you must expect the cost and/or time to increase. Likewise, if you wish to reduce the cost, then you must expect the amount of pace of work to decrease, and so on. However, the relationship is frequently exponential rather than linear, so if you want the project to be done twice as fast, then you are likely to pay more than twice the cost.

What are you experiences in running or being a part of a project?

~Alex

Categories: Uncategorized

Follow your passion, make it a movement

November 12, 2012 Leave a comment

If you have an idea that you really like and that you are really passionate about, you should follow it. No matter if it is a business idea or a non-profit idea. If it is about a niche-market or about to fundamentally change the world…

There will be hurdles in the way of executing your genius eventually. But you shouldn’t resign at the first sign of headwind.

A very good example is the story of the inventors of Movember. Following up from a dare in a bar in 2003, they created a charity event that raised a total of $126 million worldwide for prostate cancer last year.

Check it out: http://www.ted.com/talks/adam_garone_healthier_men_one_moustache_at_a_time.html

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Resume writing part 2

October 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Last week we discussed how the first resume page of a recent graduate could look like.

Today we will review the second and in most cases final page for a student resume. Sections that are included on the second page are professional memberships, extra-curricular activities, notable accomplishments, and additional skills.

It’s quite possible that as a student you do not have a lot of knowledge regarding various professional bodies that are prominent in your particular industry. Researching these organisations and applying for a student membership (in most cases it’s free!) will allow you to show your interest in the career field you are pursuing, as well as giving you access to a wealth of industry specific discussions and information, which will allow you to show your depth of knowledge during an interview. In summary, the professional memberships section is a good addition to your resume. In some industries this will make your resume stand out, in others it is a prerequisite.

Extra-curricular activities is a rather common section. It is frequently described as the section that allows you to present yourself as an individual. By showing the interviewer that you are able to participate in a variety of student organisations, charity projects, and community events, you are illustrating your team work- and leadership-skills as well as your character-traits. If you are not part of a student organisation, I strongly recommend to join one, not only for resume building value, but for personal enjoyment.

The notable accomplishments section allows you to demonstrate your academic and personal achievements and provide a basis for small talk during an interview. Any accomplishment, big or small, should be included in this section. Did you complete a marathon? Competed professionally/semi professionally in a sporting event? Received a commemorative letter for outstanding performance? Played a musical instrument during a concert at your local community center or theatre? Even second/third place awards are fine! In sprinting events frequently a one hundredth of a second makes a differences between first and second place.

Lastly, the Additional Skills Section… It has some formality to it, but also an opportunity to make one last impression. The formality revolves around the need to state your language skills (including test scores if you have them), computer skills, and industry specific skills. The opportunity hides in the fact that you can also share your professional interests and recent industry related books that you’ve read.

Thank you for reading! As always, here, at eMusketeers, we realize that our view (although we frequently disagree with each other, too) is just one of many. True learning can only be achieved on the edge of comparison, so we encourage you to comment and engage with us in a debate.

Alex

The Allais paradox – Part 2

September 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Last week we introduced the Allais paradox, a decision problem in which the majority of people select mutually exclusive choices, thus highlighting irrationalities in human decision-making. Several experimental results suggest that humans try to avoid losses more than they seek gains, prefer certainty to uncertainty, place too much emphasis on the small probabilities and less weight on the larger ones. These behavioural patterns do not apply to every single individual, but are mere generalisations gained via the experimental evidence. What does this mean to the business world?

Frequently, it means that in certain situations where risk is desirable, managers seek to minimize it as to not suffer any consequences of failure. For example, actions that are done on repetitive basis, such as setting the budget, are very prone to “this specific situation syndrome”, i.e. they take each budget individually, not as a combination. As a consequence they try to minimize their chances of running over budget and thus inflate it, but in the long run (say 10 years) a greater level of risk is desirable for the organisation. That is because even if in 2-3 years budget was underestimated, in the other 7-8 years more resources were freed to cover the consequences of those overruns. You might say that no manager would stay in the same work place for 10 years and do the same sort of budget decisions, but this is about generalised behavioural trends and different people in the same position might do the same. What’s more as a senior executive with 10 managers reporting to you, you should actually want such a level of risk that 2-3 managers do run over budget, but those overruns should be compensated by the other 7-8 who did not. If all 10 managers did not go over budget, it likely means that your budget targets are such that resources are frozen, but could have been used more productively.

So why do we tend to punish budget overruns again?

Alex

Taxonomy of professional services firm

September 7, 2012 Leave a comment

I know that at least some of our followers plan to apply to a professional services firm. What surprises me is that very few of them actually realize their function at an entry level position and subsequently what they will do on day to day basis. That being the case, I decided to share my view as to how professional services firms are structured. My view can be summarised in the diagram below, you can see position titles from the lowest (Consultant) to the highest (Senior Partner), with respective primary functions listed in the brackets.

Specialist

(Technical Advice)

Senior Partner

(Strategy)

Partner

(Sales)

Senior Director

(evaluation period for partner)

Director

(Supervision)

Manager

(Planning)

Senior Consultant

(Execution and Supervision)

Consultant

(Execution)

A couple of points I would like to note before discussing the consultant position that most of my friends apply for. First, note that post director level there is a split, this is my way of indicating that you can advance after director either by virtue of your technical knowledge or due to your salesman skills. Most directors wanting to become a partner have to demonstrate their ability to bring business to the firm before they are considered for the position, a few get promoted because of their ability to develop new products/technical knowledge (you just don’t need that many product creators). The split does not mean that you have sales partners and technical specialists exclusively, one person can potentially have both skills, but one of them is the reason they got promoted.

Now, the most interesting part is that Consultants are not there to create innovative ideas or to alter work processes. In most cases they simply do not have the knowledge to access organisational initiatives, thus their job is to execute and understand how professional services firms work. Yet, surprisingly many graduates actually want to portray themselves as innovative and filled with ideas, but if your employer needs you to execute on a timeline and budget, then he/she might be hesitant of candidates who may derail a well oiled process.

Alex

Categories: Uncategorized