But ..but…I didn’t get any credit for all the stuff I did


This is by far the most common feedback I have gotten as a manager in my career – more or less in those exact words. And I admit that I have used those exact words with my managers in my early days. It is a challenge for both employees and managers to move past this feeling of bitterness. Both parties need some reality checks usually before they move on.

At some point – most people realize that chasing credit is not a good use of their time. But people take their own time to get to that realization. Here are some random thoughts on how to deal with this.

The more you give, the more you get

As long as they really mean it – I would encourage managers to not withhold giving credit. Caveat : Just don’t give empty praise – that will get viewed as an insult at some point.

Over time, everyone will know who deserved the credit for a given result. So if you steal credit – do so knowing that your reputation will take a hit one day soon, and that you almost instantly will lose the loyalty of the employee from whom you stole the credit. So if you are considering taking more than your fair share of credit – do yourself a favor and stop now.

The repetition problem

Credit essentially means someone says “good job”, and the employee can “cash in the good will” some later day. What usually gets missed in the process is that gratitude from managers and others diminish with repetition. If you pull a rabbit out of a hat – people will applaud. Do it again, and you might get another round of applause. But if you are able to do it again and again – even if it involves great skill, your chance of getting a great round of applause will decrease. Corporate world is not fair – and the sooner we get it, the better our chances of staying sane.

If you need credit – you better keep learning new tricks. And teach the old tricks to the next person in line. You need to do both – if you learn new tricks without training someone in the old tricks, you will be stuck with the old and new job.  As counter intuitive as it might sound at first – you won’t go very far up the chain if you make yourself irreplaceable. Not everyone wants to move up – but then they should reduce their expectation of seeking explicit gratitude for what they think as exceptional work. Did I say it is a very unfair world ?

Knowing when to say yes and no

Saying yes to everything is a sure shot way of making sure people give you absolutely no credit pretty soon. And then it becomes really hard to cope with the ensuing bitter feeling. This is typically what happens to the “nice” people.  I still fail at this more often than I succeed.

You have to learn to say no when you need to – and you need to stand firm.

Being a nice person is not the sole reason to say yes all the time – sometimes it is just fear. Some managers rule by fear. And sometimes the manager will be quite ok, but the employee will be afraid nevertheless (usually a “once bitten , twice shy” case). But you seriously need to get over it – or else people will walk all over you.

I like to say yes most of the time. I will say yes as long as it is reciprocated . But if I see the behavior is one way only – I start evaluating more before I say yes or no. With my managers – I adapt more given I know they have a more complex schedule than my own. But even there – if I see back to back repetitions of one-way behavior, I will start being cautious of what I say yes to.  It is not something I have mastered – and a lot of variables are at play in any situation. But I certainly say no to things way more today than I did 10 years ago.

There is always a bull market somewhere

If all your efforts fail and you are miserable – you should remember that there is always another team, another manager or another company that might value you. And you don’t need to wait till you are miserable to start that search.

I always encourage people to know your second line managers well. The very best managers I have had in my career always were happy to introduce me to their bosses. If your second line manager does not have time for you ever, it is usually not a good situation for you. Don’t walk – run 🙂 . If your direct manager does not have time for you – then don’t just run – you should fly !

Pay it forward

The best managers I worked for in my career never hesitated to give me credit when I did something good. They also kicked my butt (sometimes real hard) when needed. And they encouraged me to do the same for the people I managed. It still took me a good while to see the “pay it forward” way of looking at it. I know first hand by now that it works very well over time – and it is very gratifying to have played a small part in someone else’s success and happiness.

Advertisements

Facebook bought Whatsapp – I have mixed feelings


I don’t exactly know what to make of Facebook’s acquisition of Whatsapp for about $19B . Like many others – it was a jaw bropping moment for me. And since then, I have been trying to rationalize it in my mind, with limited success.

There are some things that work in favor of this deal for sure

1. Facebook has a big inflated market cap. So it is a good time to buy someone if part of the investment is in stock.

2. What is the biggest risk for Facebook? I guess it is the scenario of growth stagnation and a loss of stickiness. On both counts , Whatsapp is THE new facebook . They would have hit a billion users one day soon with their growth rate.

3. If Facebook didn’t buy them – it is possible that Whatsapp might have ended up with a competitor like Google. In fact I cannot believe that there is no indication so far of anyone else bidding up the price for this $19B valuation to make sense.

4. Facebook is smart in looking for inorganic and risky moves to grow and keep potential competitors at bay. That is admirable for such a young company , especially one that has so many bright engineers working for it.

5. The only financing the company took was $8M from Sequoia. They got a VERY good deal – but it makes it easy for Facebook to not have to deal with a lot of deal complexity and negotiations.

6. Whatsapp shows that you can support 450 Million users with 32 engineers. I don’t know any enterprises or consumer companies who have that kind of ratio. It is unheard of – and something Facebook can hopefully learn from as they grow.

There are also some things I don’t quite like about the deal

1. Historically, there are many such big acquisitions that have not worked out quite well for the acquiring company – like Microsoft buying Skype for about $8B or so. And skype does have a model to make real revenue unlike Whatsapp

2. Facebook doesn’t make revenue to match its market cap. How exactly does adding a very pricey Whatsapp that makes very little money on top make economic sense beats me. Especially since the impression is that Whatsapp will continue to not get into monetization via advertisements.

3. How much of competition can Facebook buyout ? at some point – it gets very expensive, and the share dilution for Mr.Z might not make it attractive .

4. What is the rationale behind this valuation? Will more low revenue startups now use this to convince the market of higher valuation? Will be constantly be jumping from one bubble to another ?

In general , I am none the wiser. But of course what I think doesn’t matter – it is Facebook’s money – they can do whatever they please 🙂

Is there anything more broken in HR than recruiting ?


I am not an HR expert – can’t even make a stretch claim to be one . Few months ago , I was convinced that performance appraisals were the most broken part of the HR realm . I wrote a few posts on my views on talent management and several readers joined the discussion . Eventually my conclusion became “Performance appraisals are evil , but the winner of the most broken HR process is recruitment”.

In hindsight , this is quite simple and something I should have known a long time ago . Guess I took it for granted somehow and didn’t realize the scale of bad consequences it has on a company .

Here are half a dozen random thoughts

1. Who owns the hiring process ? A line manager or HR ?

This should be a rhetorical question , and the problem is that it is anything but . If the hiring manager is not actively involved , HR in most cases cannot be effective . But HR is hardly empowered in any organization I know of in pushing back when hiring reqs are thrown over the wall mechanically . If you throw the req over the wall and wait for action – better not expect to find candidates you would like to work with .

If I am a candidate looking for a job – I will have amber lights flashing in my mind all the time if I don’t see the hiring manager actively involved in the process . I know from experience that it is a sure shot sign of a poor experience for me on the job , should I get it . My instinct is to walk away when I am in this situation – I learned it the hard way.

2. Can you read the hiring req with a straight face to a colleague ?

I recently read the job posting for an entry level admin job that pays $10 an hour with no benefits . If I didn’t read the title – I would have thought they are hiring a head of HR in a 1000 person company . This req was from a very successful manager who would fight tooth and nail to remove features from products because most customers don’t need it .

Some managers hire for talent – not for a given job opening . This is a double edged sword . On one hand – it is really hard to find good people and hence it makes sense to hire them when you find them and then figure out a meaningful job for them . On the other hand – these candidates need work that is worth their while (and lower patience levels to sit around) and you as manager might have other pressing issues once the hiring is done . So think very carefully about next steps if this is the route you take

3. Is salary such a taboo topic ?

I don’t know it for a fact – but I often have wondered if HR bosses give recruiters a KPI on how much money they can negotiate down for a given candidate .

Candidates get dragged through a lengthy interview process and then they get a shock when they hear the offer is a complete low ball . While money is not everything – for most candidates it is a deal breaker . Why not ask candidates if they are comfortable with a range you can afford ?

4. What about retention ?

Hiring is one half of the problem – the other half is retention . Hiring is a costly process for the company – and it involves the risk of screwing over someone else’s life and career .

Yet , with maybe one exception – I have hardly seen long term incentives for managers to retain their best talent .

5. Will they join if they really knew you and the team ?

One of the things I am very particular about is to tell potential candidates about everything that I think can go wrong for them when working in my team , and only then explain the good stuff . I also insist that they talk to everyone else currently in my team to make sure they are fully comfortable in taking forward the process . It is also important that everyone (or most people) in the team feel comfortable with their potential new colleague .

About 3 out of 4 times , people choose to not join when I do this . For many of them – I was able to find them other jobs that I thought would fit them well . But almost without exception – they are happy to still help me and work with me when I need a hand with something . And the few who choose to work with me – these are folks I can go to ANY battle with .

This didn’t come naturally to me – I learned it over time that hiring fewer right people is always better than hiring a lot of people who may or may not be right for you . A big reason for bad hiring process is the inflexible corporate budgeting policies that mandate across the board hiring freezes , not allowing managers enough freedom to handle their budgets and so on . I will go on a limb to say that impact on hiring is perhaps the biggest evil of planning and budgeting in companies .

6. The best time to plant a shade tree was a few years ago , second best is today

Everyone tells candidates to build a network . But what about managers looking to hire people ? Just like sales people need a pipeline , so do hiring managers

The worst solution is putting up job reqs at random and saving every CV that comes from applicants . That does not make a qualified pipeline . You need to get out and know the up and coming players outside your team – internal and external to your company, and win their trust . At executive levels – this is common practice . But this is usually not the case for non executive jobs .

For some weird reason – companies tend to put a higher bar for internal candidates . I have fought this almost all my career – and I think treating your internal candidates as sub par is one of the biggest hiring mistakes one can make .

There are many jobs where similar jobs in a different industry might be just as good . One of the best project managers I know of was a nurse before she shifted to IT . I never had the chance to meet the manager who hired her , but he surely saw the potential despite it not being a conventional hire . World needs more of such managers

Enterprise and UX – is it the classic “dog chasing its tail” ?


My pal Jon Reed posted a 2 part series on the topic of User Experience for enterprise software. Part one is http://diginomica.com/2014/02/13/enterprise-user-experience-overhyped/ and Part two is http://diginomica.com/2014/02/14/enterprise-consumer-grade-ui-part-2/ . You should read both – in fact you should read pretty much everything Jon posts. If it is not worth reading, Jon would not post it.

Since mid 90s – I have been fighting the good fight on UI and at some point after that, I have been fighting the fight on UX too. And I have not won that battle other than for short periods in time. This is true for packaged software as well as custom development projects I have worked on. However, solutions I helped create in late 90s are still used by customers in some shape – which honestly amazes me. If they went by the social media wisdom on UI and UX – there should be no such solution alive, and customers should be chasing me with an axe in their hands 🙂

All that said, I readily admit that my own first hand experience should not dictate anything given I have not worked with a statistically significant number of projects. And while I appreciate good design, I know that I am not a good designer. So what follows is strictly my personal opinion at this point in time. My opinion on UI and UX have changed with time – and it probably will change again.

Design philosophies have changed over time. When I started – the idea was that you offer every possibility to the user in an application – and let the users choose what they want to do. Now that pendulum has swung the other way – make it as lean as possible, and don’t give the user more than the absolute minimum required. There is one thing that I find fascinating in this swing – users of enterprise software are pretty smart people who can think for themselves and use most software. These are people who have figured out the deepest functionality in Excel and Access that most people would not know it even existed. They don’t need dumbing down – they just want things straightforward.

How big of a deal is UI in the overall UX? It is not everything – but it is significant. But of all things that change in technology – UI takes the cake when it comes to speed of evolution. Roughly every two years – there is some new UI thingy that is the “best ever”. Underlying technology changes just about as fast too – remember flex, silverlight etc? We barely knew them by the time they got obsolete. HTML5 is the new cool kid – but for how long ? Will we ever see an end to HTML vs native ? This is the dog chasing its tail scenario – you cannot catch up and take a lead for very long.

Stellar UX always comes at a cost. Either the vendor will charge for it – or a customer will pay contractors or internal IT to do that. So where exactly will we draw the line on how far we chase the ultimate UX at any given point in time ?

There is an additional aspect of UX that one needs to consider – not everything about UX can be controlled. I have one of the better global data plans available in US – and I can’t even get email in some parts of the country. And this is a crippling problem when I travel abroad. And I am talking about email – nothing fancy one would think. What about OS updates on mobile devices? I have not had a single upgrade where some app I use daily would not get screwed up. So how exactly does one fix something one has no control over?

Lets fast forward into prediction territory. IT moves to and from Suite to best of breed and again to suite with time . Now the swing is to best of breed – which means users will again have more than one app to deal with for a given business process. Even if every app has stellar UX when taken in isolation, all of them daisy chained together will have limited consistency. And by the time people get to know the new experience, world would have moved on to a new paradigm. Such is life in the wonderland of enterprise software.

So that was my long winded way of answering Jon Reed’s original question on whether UX in enterprise is over hyped. The short answer is – yes it is, and needlessly so. Good UX is a must to get work done without trouble. But when people move beyond “good enough” – they tend to approach the “diminishing returns” area very quickly. No one wins there – not vendors, not customers, nor spectators.

 

What about those company values ?


Couple of days ago, I had a nice long chat with an old friend who worked with me more than ten years ago. One of the topics that came up in the conversation was how some companies don’t seem to have a set of core values to guide the actions of their employees. It is not as if such companies don’t have a defined value system – the problem is that employees don’t seem follow it. They just end up as slogans on a wall or a website or a T shirt.

When I joined IBM many years ago – it was drilled into me that there are three things that will guide me through my time there

1. Dedication to every client’s success

2. Innovation that matters – for our company, and for the world

3. Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships

In its abstract sense, this did not mean much at all to me. It took a few years and a lot of conversations with others living this value system that I figured what it really meant. I also learned through the process that having slogans mean very little unless someone takes time to explain and reinforce it with employees. There were plenty of other colleagues who did not have the chance to hear their leaders explain this to them with real life examples, and consequently never gave it a second thought.

Here are some of the nuances I learned over time that might be useful to others. I don’t think they are specific to IBM – it should work for many, if not all companies. But then again – my views are skewed for my experience. Take it with a grain – or a pound – of salt 🙂

Client vs Customer

The first time I was allowed to lead a sales pursuit independently, Dave Lubowe, the partner who managed the account, told me on the way to the meeting “Vijay, I need you to know that we don’t have customers. We only have clients”. I asked him if it was just a difference in semantics , and he told me that it was not. He explained that “customer” implied that we are in the midst of a transaction – something that is very short term, and we will probably not have to worry about this person or company a whole lot later. Whereas a client is someone who we serve for a very long time, and for whom we try to be a trusted adviser.

I got the rough idea from that snippet of conversation, but it took me many more years to understand fully why it is such an important distinction. It takes a lot of time to win someone’s confidence and it takes very little lose it. And without building that relationship, meaningful business does not happen at all. As everyone figures out eventually, it is easier to keep a client than win a new one – there is a quantitative reason for this. But even more important is the qualitative reason. I have not had a client who has not vouched for me as a reference with another client or prospect . In fact many of them have volunteered to be my reference when I switched employers. They know I will do the same for them – but neither I nor them expect any commercial favors from each other when we do business. We just know that we will be transparent with each other and that it will pay off for both sides over time.

Some innovations matter, and most don’t

While I am a big proponent of the concept of innovation, I am not a big fan of the word “innovation” any more. Due to its over use, I visibly cringe and occasionally completely tune out when people talk to me about innovation. Many of you might know that I am dead opposed to vendors describing their work as “innovation” . I use the word vendor only in a loose sense – to mean people building and selling it. It might be the IT department in a company building something for the finance people.

The sole judge of innovation is the people using it. When a client says it is innovative – then the vendor can advertise it as innovative. Till then it is just “potentially” innovative – and I would rather not see it being mentioned. Everything a vendor does should ideally be innovative in some degree – so harping on it is like me saying in every conversation that “did you know I was breathing throughout the day”. It is implied – and when you explicitly make a big deal out of it at every turn , it stops being authentic. Of course that is just my personal view of the world. I do respect the fact that others might view it differently and act according to their convictions. I have no problems with that at all.

Lets say we are in fact trying really hard to be innovative – building something potentially innovative. How do we go about it? Do we light as many fires(technical term being POC – as in Proof of Concept)  as we can in the name of failing fast ?  Do we designate some teams as “innovation teams” ? Do we let such teams run around crazy defying good and bad processes in the name of innovation? When do we stop and course correct ? or can motion be taken as the KPI for progress?

My point is – failing fast is good only if we fail responsibly. To begin with, lighting random fires in the hope of one or two catching on is seldom a scalable way to let innovation happen. Hope is not a strategy. It just spreads everyone thin. By failing responsibly, we should do micro and macro corrections along the way of each fire we light. Put out the ones that don’t belong using objective criteria and join forces with the ones that seem to show potential. And if there is no customer in the “innovation process” – just stop it at that point. At a minimum, everyone owes it to others to make sure that innovation in a company does not result in massive chaos. Some chaos is unavoidable, and some glass needs to be broken – but when it crosses over into massive chaos – its time to take a breath and realign.

Trust comes with the ability to question

The hallmark of a good team is a culture of trust and loyalty. However, it is easy to misinterpret what this means in day to day life. If the team members are not allowed to provide input in making a decision, then it is hard to expect them to trust the leader in the direction they have to take. And when they feel the team is losing direction – they should feel comfortable questioning the leaders. Goes without saying that this should happen with respect in both directions.

We are all unique, like every one else 🙂 

Thomas Watson apparently had “Respect for the individual”  as a core value for IBM in the past, and then at some point it didn’t make its way to the current three core values of IBM. I was told by an old time IBMer that the rationale was that respect for the individual was implied in everything else and hence did not need to be explicitly mentioned. In my opinion – this should have remained as an explicit value statement. Not only for IBM – but for every company.

The lowest unit in a team is the individual. There is of course the politically correct thing of ” there is no I in TEAM”. What we should not forget is that teams are a point in time concept. We are all individuals with things that make us unique.  When individuals do not get respect and dignity, it is hard for them to be a productive member of the team.

I had a recent conversation with a dear friend on the issue of titles at work. There are many managers who coach their employees to not chase fancy titles. What senior managers don’t always realize is that unlike them who already have the title and hence don’t worry about it as much, the employee is a few steps removed and hence genuinely worries whether the company cares for the individual. Not everyone is capable of the higher responsibilities, and maybe they are ready to take on the bigger responsibility but there is no business justification at that point in time. Most people are reasonable and if you explain clearly what the situation it, they will get it.

When I was in my early career stage – I used to hate managers telling me “just keep doing what you are doing and you will do great”. I always thought that was a cop out. Doing the same thing over and over just makes you good at what you do today – how exactly does it makes you ready for next level is not clear in such a response. Managers owe it to their employees to show a clear path on what is needed for them to progress. If they cannot do that – they owe it to their employees to tell them why they cannot help, and hence it is better for the employee to work for another manager or even another company.

So Long SAP ….thanks for everything


Yesterday evening, I sent my resignation to my manager at SAP. I will be at SAP for a few more weeks to wrap things up.

It was quite an experience working at SAP – doing a little bit of a lot of things . What I am going to miss the most is the set of amazing colleagues I had here . These are the people who keep SAP software timeless ! Knowing them and connecting them to each other was quite rewarding .

I have worked in SAP technologies for almost all my career – across development, consulting , sales, architecture and so on . In fact a good portion of my time yesterday at work was spent on debugging a FICO application in ABAP on Hana 🙂 . I must say it was quite entertaining to watch the curiosity of many younger colleagues as I was working on ABAP . It was a blast.

I also was happy to announce the brand new free trial of BW 7.4 on Hana SP7 , with BI 4.1 yesterday morning . The last version of the trial was quite a success with 1400 sign ups and 150000 hours used in about 4 months . Words cannot express how well my gang executed on this project – which still doesn’t have a cool code name 🙂

I do regret however on not being able to get on to a Mentor townhall yesterday to tell my buddies of my decision to move on. The success of SAP mentor program at SAP can be summarized as “Mark Finnern” – and Maggie is fortunate to have a guy like Mark in her team . I will miss working with Maggie, Chip and their teams .

I also regret not going to be around for the Suite on Hana trial we are working on . But knowing Ingo and team – I have nothing to worry .

Talking about people – Ingo , Rohit, Rainer , Rob and everyone in extended team have always gone out of their way to help me at every turn . I am sure our paths will cross again at some point and I will go to war with you any day . You guys are the best and I am blessed to have you in my life.

Many thanks to Mary, Jessica and Brittany for keeping me organized – without your help and guidance , I would have never navigated the SAP system . Special thanks to Meike for always finding me a way to get into Abdul’s calendar . There are many talented Executive Assistants at SAP – they are the unsung Heros , keeping everything running smoothly for the people they support . I am very grateful to all of them – and I am sure all my colleagues feel that way too .

A special shout out should go to Neel and all my other mates in the Ganges team. You guys taught me there is no mountain high enough . I will be cheering you on for a long time . You are absolute role models on how to be entrepreneurs inside a large company .

Same deal for the startup team under Aiaz and Kaustav – I don’t exactly know how you pulled off the magic you did , and I am a life long fan of your team . Continue the amazing things you do – corporate world needs more folks like you .

Mike Prosceno, Stacey and Andrea have been my go to folks at SAP before I became an employee – and they continue to be my best buddies . Thanks my friends !

Marketing colleagues at SAP don’t always get the credit they deserve . Jonathan B has built a world class marketing organization and collaborating with Ingrid, Amit, Ken and other colleagues have always been a pleasure . There are many stars in that team – like Sarah Mohammadian (no one works harder than her ) – and I am sure I will get to celebrate their success even if I am not an employee of SAP.

There are way too many colleagues in engineering to call out by name – and there are many that make the products I worked with successful whom I have not met in person . I learned a lot from them – and I hope I was some help to them as well . Engineering is what differentiates SAP from others – and I hope they continue to rock on and take SAP to greater heights .

Most of my time at SAP was spent on Hana , and especially BW on Hana . Like every big company I know of – SAP also has a complex organizational structure . It is amazing how many teams came together to make BW on Hana a success . In hindsight – the biggest challenge we had was the perception in the market that when Hana came out, BW became obsolete . I hope my colleagues don’t have to deal with that issue again since Vishal has repeatedly clarified that it is not dead . The extended BW team has a lot of very passionate people – and I will cherish the opportunity I had in working with Stefan Sigg, Thomas Zurek, Klaus Nagel, Mike Eacrett, Lothar Henkes, Prakash Darji, Chris Hallenbeck , Daniel Rutschmann , Dan Kearnan, Markus Winter and the CAL team and many many other colleagues .

Similarly , I owe a lot to my peers and their teams in the CD&SP team, and folks like Mohan Balaji, Margaret Anderson, Michael Bechauf etc with whom I could talk freely on any topic.

And finally – all the leadership team from Hasso, Bill, Jim, Vishal, Rob, Steve Lucas , Jonathan, Abdul, Aiaz, Sethu and everyone else – huge thanks for all the help and coaching . I learned a lot from all of you and am grateful for that .

So why am I leaving despite all the good things I have to say about SAP ?

My experience over the years has always been with big companies . SAP is smaller than IBM – but with more than 65000 employees, it’s quite a big company in its own right . And at an abstract level – working at one big company is not all that different from working at another . And at this stage of my career, I think my incremental learning is going to be pretty minimal if I continue to do that . It also helps that most of the things I am working on is at a stage where it is easy to hand off to another colleague to take it to its next level .

A very good friend that I had dinner with a few months ago introduced me to Max Schireson over email . Max is the CEO at MongoDB. He and I spoke several times and I got introduced to his team in the process and I absolutely was thrilled at the quality of people who work there, the founders of the company and I absolutely loved the product (an obsolete programmer like me could do a hello world in less than an hour) . I also got introduced to a few other big and small company CEOs at the same time and was fortunate to get to know them and their teams . But at the end – it seemed like MongoDB is a very special place to work at , and to grow with .

So, I have decided to join MongoDB, as VP of Global Channels. I have a good feeling that it will be an interesting challenge to build and run a top performing global channel at MongoDB . Having been part of the IBM and  SAP ecosystem for a long time , I feel confident that I have a good grip on how great channels and ecosystems work . I will explain more about my new role later in another blog post .

I didn’t make this decision alone – many friends gave me thoughtful advice . You know who you are and please know that I value your counsel a lot .

That was a rather long post and I am sure I missed calling out many people and things . I won’t be a stranger to SAP and its ecosystem . Who knows, maybe there are cool things to do between SAP and MongoDB too :).

Next steps are to hand over everything I have on my plate to other colleagues, take a short break from work – and then start the new adventure. Wish me luck !

The slippery slope of predictive Analytics


I am not the biggest football fan around – I am a big fan of cricket though. And despite my day job is about making sense of data – I don’t use much of quantitative methods when it comes to sports . I think it takes away my excitement .

After the Super Bowl game finished – I saw on twitter that SAP had predicted that Denver will win over Seattle in a close match . As it turned out – Seattle won a rather one sided match with a very young side . A few friends on twitter pointed out that SAP made a bad prediction before the game , and they are not wrong .

In parallel, I decided to skip watching the India vs NewZealand cricket series thinking India will win this 5-0 and it will be boring . I was close on my gut prediction – the score was 4-0, just that India was on the losing side of that equation . On the bright side , I am happy that I didn’t have to watch the massacre and live with the nightmares .

I didn’t work on the predictive Analytics solution that made the prediction for Super Bowl and I am not authorized by SAP to provide a response . But since I am sitting at PHX waiting for my flight in the midst of many dejected Denver fans who are analyzing the result in painful detail – I wanted to share my personal views on this matter .

Predictive Analytics in general cannot be used to make absolute predictions when there are so many variables involved . In fact – I think there is no place for absolute predictions at all . And when the results are explained to the non-statistical expert user – it should not be dumbed down to the extent that it appears to be an absolute prediction .

Predictive models make assumptions – and these should be explained to the user to provide the context . And when the model spits out a result – it also comes with some boundaries (the probability of the prediction coming true , margin of error , confidence etc). When those things are not explained – predictive Analytics start to look like reading palms or tarot cards . That is a disservice to predictive Analytics .

If the chance of Denver winning is 49% and Seattle winning is 51% – it doesn’t exactly mean Seattle will win . And not all users will look at it that way unless someone tells them more details .

In business , there is hardly any absolute prediction ever . Analytics provide a framework for decision making for the business leaders . Analytics can say that if sales increases at the same historic trend , Latin America will outperform planned numbers next year compared to Asia. However , the global sales leader might know more about the nuances that the predictive model had no idea of, and hence can decide to prioritize Asia . The additional context provided by predictive Analytics enhances the manager’s insight and over time will trend to better decisions . The idea definitely is not to over rule the intuition and experience of the manager . Of course the manager should understand clearly what the model is saying and use that information as a factor in decision making .

When this balance in approach is lost – predictive Analytics gets an unnecessary bad rap.

That being said , I heard next year Super Bowl is played in Arizona . Maybe I should start following the game a bit more closely 🙂