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Business managers have tough jobs. They’re constantly being called upon to make decisions without the right amount of data – or the best quality data. I can tell you that I’ve made plenty of mistakes because I didn’t have a broad enough set of data on which I could connect the dots and consider a host of possibilities. In retrospect, I was irritated with myself for missing the mark and wasting time.
In the age of big data, open data, and in the evolution of great analytical tools, I’m surprised that people like product managers, marketers, and others are still operating by, and making decisions on less data. During my interviews with product managers, I often ask about the data they use to make decisions.
Most do say that they look at financial information, customer satisfaction, and a few other measures. However, those basic results indicators don’t always tell the entire story or provide sufficient evidence to help them make the best decisions. In the absence of good data, you can be broadsided by an unanticipated quality problem or a competitor’s surprise foray into your space. And even if the big data movement is a boon to marketers in faster moving consumer oriented businesses to do targeted marketing at hyper-speed, this is not the environment in which most product managers find themselves.
Segue. When you go to the doctor with an ailment, you’re asked a number of questions to help the doctor figure out what’s wrong. After all, if they make the wrong diagnosis, the outcome could be catastrophic.
In short, doctors are practitioners, and as they encounter new situations and learn more, they build a dynamic library of evidence. Doctors must be as precise as possible. You would expect no less. Why is it then, that product managers and other business managers don’t hold themselves to standards of analysis in a manner similar to that of a doctor?
Business practitioners, like doctors, have to understand how the interconnected systems of products and processes, actually works. They need to know where to put the “leads” in order to take the pulse of the product and evaluate the efficacy of past and present actions so that they can prescribe the best course of action. Each evaluative piece of data contributes to greater understanding.
A collective set of data or new information allows for the assessment of a new situation. Then, as each situation is encountered and addressed, positive outcomes can be recorded in a library of business protocols (or best practices) that can be used to teach others – just the way medical practitioners do. Poor outcomes can also be recorded so that others don’t repeat the same mistakes!
In a world that produces prodigious amounts of data, product managers and other business leaders would do well to harness the needed data to make evidence-based decisions.
When they do, they’ll elevate their stature and earn the empowerment they yearn for. In short, they’ll be seen in a similar light that other recognized professional practitioners are seen.
Think how it might feel when the line of people outside your office when “The Product Manager is In.”