Data problems are not the real problem

My colleague Dr Andrew Pratley and I are on a mission to defeat quantifornication. Last week we ran the first of two free interactive webinars we are running to explore the topic. We had attendees from a range of industries including banking, emergency services, energy, insurance, health, policy agencies and regulators from federal and state governments, local government, engineering consultants, risk and cyber risk consultants, IT service providers and many more.

Everyone was there for the same reason. Their discomfort with the acceptance of quantifornication. How does quanifornication come about? To answer that question I must quote one of the attendees who introduced me to the acronym BOGSAT. Which stands for Bunch of Guys Sitting Around Talking. What worried him the most was that in his field he applies it to military security risks where the consequences of events can be fatal and frequently are.

During the session I commented that most of my clients that embarked on, or are on big data projects, spent a heap of money and utilised a heap of resources for well more than a year before they could even smell the hint of some real benefit. Why? Because people think they need bucket loads of data to solve problems.

One of my favourite lines Andrew has given me is: “It’s not about big data, it’s about your data”. When I said that to the attendees, there was a pause and then the questions flowed:

  • What data do I need?
  • How much data is enough?

What’s most interesting is that these are not even the right questions to ask. The better question is:

  • What is the problem I am trying to solve?

When you know the problem you want to solve, you can then either identify the data that may help you answer the question or, as described in my blog about R.A. Fisher in the 1930’s, design an experiment from which data is created. An experiment known as The Lady Testing Tea.

Let me leave you with this final comment by one of the participants.

“We have lots and lots of data. What we found from the recent bushfire season is that we didn’t have any of the right data.”

It’s not about big data. It’s about articulating the problem you need to solve and working from there.

If you want to be part of our next free webinar to explore how to get accurate with risk analysis see below for registration details.

Stay safe and adapt – with better measurement!