Can you trust your organisation’s data analysis?

18 February 2016

Mistakes happen, no matter how experienced you are at doing data analytics. You might know somebody who claims that they don’t make mistakes, or somebody with so much experience that their analysis is always trusted and never checked. But whoever does the data analysis, there will always be errors that aren’t spotted unless it’s properly independently reviewed. A single mistake can also have grave consequences, as we saw with the Intercity West Coast fiasco when a simple modelling error was one of the factors that cost the government more than £40m.

I recently reviewed a model that an organisation was using to support their strategic planning. The model was built by another large consulting firm, and while it looked very professional on the surface, I uncovered a catalogue of errors that were completely corrupting the model outputs. These errors would have been very difficult for the client to spot, and if the model had been reviewed properly in the first place they would not have been there.

However it’s not just complicated data analysis models that need to be reviewed. Simple Excel spreadsheets that organisations or departments rely on can often contain difficult to spot mistakes. If the professionally built model that I reviewed could contain so many errors, then I sometimes wonder how many errors are contained in the quickly developed spreadsheets that can frequently become ingrained in organisations.

Investing the time to review modelling tools is often overlooked. It’s not a glamorous task, and it can be low on people’s priorities. Organisations also don’t always have the right people available with the right capabilities to conduct these independent reviews. However, without an independent, systematic review of your data analysis there will always be a risk that the results are inaccurate or even just plain wrong. Don’t make a wrong choice with your strategy or become the next Intercity West Coast just because somebody has put a bracket in the wrong place!

If you would like to discuss these issues, or the impact of emerging technology or data and analytics on your industry, then contact our Data & Analytics team.

by Joe Stacey - Manager, Strategy&