You need to discover fire before you can launch a rocket!

I was recently in Germany attending the Gartner Data and Analytics Summit in Frankfurt. I had a chance to meet many clients and prospects who are struggling to get their analytics projects off the ground. Every client wants a moon shot – to leapfrog immediately to space flight without having even discovered the wheel.

I also had the opportunity to meet with an amazing thought leader in analytics, Alexander Thamm and we discussed this topic in depth.

Alex Thamm, the CEO of Alexander Thamm GmbH has helped some of the leading companies in Germany achieve amazing results with analytics. In our discussion, Alex shared what he is seeing: organizations want the nirvana promised by AI and Cognitive technologies. The challenge with many of these organizations is that they do not even have the basics down. A recent HBR article backs this view up. Many organizations either do not understand, don’t appreciate or even worse, are in denial of what is really needed to be successful to move up the analytics curve.

So, as I sat there at Alex’s headquarters in Munich, Germany I thought about an analogy I have shared multiple times because I have too frequently experienced vendors pitching the magic of artificial intelligence and analytics only to see a deer the headlights type of gaze.

So I shared the following analogy with Alex to see if this is what he is also seeing.

Explaining artificial intelligence and advanced analytics is like explaining the space shuttle launch to cave men. First you start a fire. Once the fire is going and strong enough you need to get yourself a tin can. You take that tin can and fill it with some type of combustible fuel and set it on top of the fire. Enough pressure will build up and send the tin can into the sky. The tin can will go around the earth. Voila! You have space travel. The cave men tend to sit there completely astonished…..amazed really. After overcoming their initial amazement….they eventually say: “Wow, that is absolutely amazing!!!!! Incredible! So, how did you get the fire??

Alex’s reaction was clear. This is what he is seeing too. He like the analogy so much he recommended I share it as a blog post.

I am not saying that most organizations are filled with cave men. I AM saying that we as vendors owe it to our clients to help the progress along the analytics curve. If we are truly dedicated to our clients’ success, sometimes we need to have the tough conversation with the client – Yes, I understand you want to have artificial intelligence across your organization (moon shot). I recommend you start with getting your data collection and management processes (fire) down first and then we can build up to your moon shot.

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