Watercooler guy

The Watercooler Analytics Manifesto

November 18, 2015

When we set out to build the Watercooler Analytics platform, we wanted to change the way people think about analytics. We believe that analytics need not be the purview of one "super analyst" within an organization. Rather, we want to bring analytics to the rest of the organization much as a watercooler brings organizations together. 

A reasonable question is whether analytics can be exposed to wider audiences without "dumbing down" the content. We believe the answer is "yes" but it does require some thought and effort. For example, forecasting is a common application of analytics that is usually associated with complex algorithms requiring many input variables to formulate a forecast. However, assumptions can be made that allow simple forecasts to be generated from any time-series data set with the touch of a button. Our philosophy is that both of these approaches are needed in an organization --- simple analytics for wider "watercooler" audiences that might be able to spot patterns, trends and issues and more complex analytics that can be applied once an issue or opportunity is identified.

To define Watercooler Analytics, we arrived at 5 principles:

1. User-friendly with no training required
The term "user-friendly" is overused, especialy in the realm of analytics. Our definition is much stricter --- it literally means that the dashboards and analytics must be accessible to any audience without any training. Much as platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook are used without any training, we believe that it's possible to build untrained communities around analytics usage.

2. Industry-specific insights
Watercooler conversations are filled with industry-specific terminology and concepts. We believe that analytics must be attuned to the needs of an industry, whether that be through terminology, industry-specific data sources or specialized algorithms. 

3. Collaboration-friendly
Watercooler Analytics must be collaboration-friendly --- easy to share, easy to discuss. As well, we believe that there should be no per user (per seat) licensing as this inhibits the sharing and propogation of analytics.
4. Presentation-friendly
Sharing analytics with wider audiences includes presentations. Watercooler Analytics must be ready to present with no cutting and pasting -- and no squinting! Too much time is spent today creating spreadsheets and presentation decks instead of "thinking" about the numbers and analytics.

5. Mobile-friendly with proactive notifications
To move analytics away from the "super analyst" means recognizing that broader audiences are more mobile. We believe that most employees and managers are not air traffic controllers --- they don't spend all day looking at a dashboard. Instead, they're out and about, in the field, in airports, in meetings and at conferences. To support this mobility, it's critical that notifications are available to alert users when metrics change. These may be positive alerts such as closing a sale above a particular dollar amount or negative alerts that may indicate a missed target.

Of course, we believe our Watercooler Analytics platform best meets the spirit of the 5 principles. However, we also believe that many of the analytics tools we've used ourselves could benefit by aligning themselves more closely with these principles. 

We would love to hear your personal experiences with analytics --- both the success stories and the challenges.

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