What the Executive Suite Should Understand About Data

Will Morgan, the founder and president of Monticello Consulting Group, is an experienced business and implementation manager with over 18 years of consulting expertise across several industries.

Will Morgan, the founder and president of Monticello Consulting Group, is an experienced business and implementation manager with over 18 years of consulting expertise across several industries.

In the 18th and the early part of the 19th century, Jefferson’s estate—Monticello—became his laboratory for many experiments involving the capture and organization of large data sets such as daily weather readings.

In the 18th and the early part of the 19th century, Jefferson’s estate—Monticello—became his laboratory for many experiments involving the capture and organization of large data sets such as daily weather readings.

I recently attended my good friend’s wedding at the Ritz Carlton in Dove Mountain, Arizona. While enjoying the company of friends I had not seen in a very long time, I ran into Frank(1)—an old friend and a political consultant to some of the well-known names in American politics.

“Frank!  Great to see you, buddy,” as I extended my hand.  “What political big-wigs have you been working with recently?”  During a campaign season Frank works incessantly, advising top political contenders who seek election to high office. More importantly-and for the purpose of this narrative-Frank also has a knack for commanding a room by telling highly engaging, even humorous, stories about some of the political personalities he has helped to run for office over the years.  On that warm night in the Arizona desert, Frank didn’t disappoint and proceeded to share a few of his war stories about working in an advisory capacity for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

 It’s funny how drinking top-shelf liquor and debating politics seem to go hand in hand, especially when there are plenty of well-heeled East Coasters attending a wedding cocktail hour. That night it wasn’t long before Frank had a congregation of self- proclaimed political experts gathered around the bar, listening-and in some cases disputing-his blow-by-blow account of the final months of the 2012 presidential election.

In the end, we all know how that presidential race ended, but I give Frank a lot of credit for fair storytelling and a mostly unbiased account of how his team lost their bid for the White House that year. With that said, I could not help but notice the ear-to-ear grins on many of the faces of our little group of New Yorkers when Frank’s story ended with President Obama trouncing former Governor Romney.  This is when the party got really interesting—one party-goer went so far as dancing on the grave of the defeated by claiming that the President’s superior intellect was the key driver in his victory over the Governor. Thanks to Frank’s better nature—and his ample enjoyment of Jim Beam and Ginger—he responded smartly: “Now, I’m not going to debate the breath or depth of each candidate’s intellect, but what I can say of the Governor and his intelligence is that he’s the only politician I’ve ever worked for who personally asked me to run a regression analysis on voter turnout!”

Perhaps it was the Wall Street pedigree of that group around the bar, but Frank’s response did elicit more than a few laughs from the crowd.  It was certainly no Lincoln-Douglas debate, but it left Frank the reigning champion of political storytelling that night.

So how does this all tie back to the importance for today’s business executive to understand data and the tools for analyzing it?  The point of Frank’s story was that a candidate for President was leveraging regression analysis, a common tool for prediction and forecasting, to make more informed decisions on where to deploy his campaign’s limited resources— namely dollars, people, and time.

If we look back as far as the eighteenth century, for over 50 years Thomas Jefferson made systematic daily weather observations of temperature and precipitation at his beloved Monticello estate. To support his extensive collection of information, Jefferson employed the services of dozens of family members, fellow politicians, scholars, and citizens—his band of so- called watchmen—and made significant contributions to the advancement of the science of meteorology in colonial America. The technologies that exist today for gathering and managing data are creating truly transformational business models—Amazon.com and Facebook to name just two—but the execution challenges are no less daunting than in Jefferson’s time, and arguably no less central to the continued success of the enterprise. Today, with the sheer volume of data and the numerous channels for its collection, CIOs and the executive suite are being forced to put enterprise data strategy first in business technology decisions.

In this newsletter, we will highlight some of Monticello’s recent engagements where we provide our clients with the enterprise data tools and analytics to add tangible value to their businesses. In addition, we will review some widely available Excel-based analytical functions, with the goal of providing the busy executive with a few tools for gaining powerful insights into what their organization’s data indicates about the current state and future of their business.

(1) Name changed to preserve anonymity of the consultant.
Intel’s co-founder, Gordon Moore, first published his prophetic observation in 1965 that the performance of computers would double every 18 months. Since that time, the chip industry has used Moore’s Law as its guidepost-driving the industry’s roadmap for developing successive generations of microprocessors. The benefits of this technological progress cannot be understated, and have arguably given rise to one of the greatest economic and social drivers of change in human history. The below figure illustrates the exponential increase in speed and performance of Intel’s widely installed CPUs over time-used in devices spanning personal computers, laptops, and more recently the tablet market.

Intel’s co-founder, Gordon Moore, first published his prophetic observation in 1965 that the performance of computers would double every 18 months. Since that time, the chip industry has used Moore’s Law as its guidepost-driving the industry’s roadmap for developing successive generations of microprocessors. The benefits of this technological progress cannot be understated, and have arguably given rise to one of the greatest economic and social drivers of change in human history. The below figure illustrates the exponential increase in speed and performance of Intel’s widely installed CPUs over time-used in devices spanning personal computers, laptops, and more recently the tablet market.