Once again, a Teradata Partners Conference packed full of information, ideas and inspirations has come to an end. We’ve had a really good time in Washington, D.C. and got to enjoy the Indian Summer at its best with pretty high temperatures for mid-October. Inside the Gaylord National Resort, it wasn’t much cooler. During daytime, we heard some fiery discussions and in the evenings, the mood heated up even more due to great social events. I was especially fascinated by the magicians.
Now the trick with the lady in a box, who is being cut in half, may not be the most innovative one, but it delivers a perfect take-away message from this conference. What we believe to see is not necessarily the truth about what is actually happening. This is what these masters of illusion teach us, and it is the same conclusion that we draw when we take data analytics serious. It is just that data analysts and scientists take the opposite approach. They cut through the foggy visions of intuition and illusions and bring out the plain, hard facts. They are masters of a very fruitful disillusion. The insight our customers get by drilling into their data sometimes leads to results that are profoundly contra intuitive. The truth is, no one can really foresee what insights your organization can get once all data has been integrated and you set sails for data discovery. Just – as Darryl McDonald said during his speech at the Teradata Partners Conference: “The more data you have, the more you know”.
Earlier this year, Stephen Brobst spoke in one of his presentations at Teradata Universe in Dublin about an airline where every once in a while a customer got stuck because of a misconnected flight or maybe a mechanical problem. He then asked the audience to join in a little quiz: what would they do with such customers if they were the managers of the airline. The possible options were either to do nothing, send an apology letter, give them a voucher for 200 dollars off on the next flight, grant them a one year membership in the airline’s VIP Lounge or 25,000 frequent flyer miles. The audience was a little indifferent but a slight majority tended to the 200 dollar certificate. Interestingly, the airline was following exactly that lane, which turned out to be a waste of money. When they later deployed some sophisticated analytics, it turned out that the VIP lounge membership was the smartest way to go. Why? Because it would encourage frequent flyers to travel with the airline even more, and less frequent travelers may simply not use it (and therefore save the airline’s money) but still feel cherished.
To me, this is a perfect example that proves that the illusionistic lean of human intuition – be it of a highly experienced manager – just troubles our view on the plain facts. Understanding our data leads to undisputable facts and thus to know how to handle problems best.
Anyhow, the temperatures here have cooled down after the conference and Washington D.C. has to prepare for Hurricane Sandy now. I am really glad I managed to fly home to good old Germany last Friday and didn’t get stuck in Washington, D.C., as did some of my colleagues who stayed in the region over the weekend. Apart from that, it seems like another Teradata conference luckily escaped the whims of nature – just like the Universe Conference 2010 in Berlin, which ended just in time before the ash cloud of volcano Eyjafjallajökull paralyzed air traffic in Europe. Though the airlines can’t be blamed for these kinds of incidents, it would be interesting to know what people get offered for reimbursement in such cases. But as all of the top five global airlines are Teradata customers, I’m confident they’ll know what to do. However, I wish the people on the US East Coast, who have to deal with the hurricane now, all the best and hope it will be less serious than the forecasts predict.