We heard an interesting statistic the other day. Our friends over at Ventana Research (and here’s a plug for the award they gave us), Robert Kugel specifically, wrote a very interesting piece in August about optimization analytics. He said it was “the application of algorithms to sets of data to guide executives and managers in making the best decisions.”

If the idea of algorithms applied to data sets to optimize performance sounds a little intimidating, that’s because it is. Kugel talks about how this method has been used to find the most efficient route for commercial aircraft and how it informed large retailers when they made pricing decisions.

You may be thinking that with such large implementations and an intimidating name that optimization analytics is beyond your reach. Not so. Kugel explains

“…using optimization technologies and techniques to better manage a variety of day-to-day business issues is becoming easier. I expect optimization, once the preserve of data scientist and operations research specialists will become mainstream in general purpose analytics over the next five years.”

Way ahead of you, Robert. How do we do it at VisualCue? Easy. It’s all about context and thresholds.

The VisualCue Approach to Optimization

mosaic

In his article Kugel says that most traditional optimization analytics algorithms were linear pieces of programming designed to figure out how to cut the most costs. But the end result and the method was always the same- use an algorithm to determine best practices, letting the program put the pieces together and find the best way to optimize whatever person, process or product you were looking at.

Our approach follows the same line, mostly. We gather key performance indicators and other factors relating to each person, process or product in your business and put them all in one visualization that’s easy to understand.

However, we realized that you’ve probably already got some thresholds for best practices and performance standards in your organization. The only problem is there are lots of standards and best practices out there, all of them living in scattered reports. It’s hard to put the pieces together and see that, for example, while  a particular sales representative does have low customer satisfaction scores this quarter they are excelling in every other key performance indicator, so it might not make sense to let them go right now. That’s the danger of scattered information- you can’t see the whole story. Optimization analytics algorithms were designed to see the whole picture and help the user make an informed, data-driven decision.

weights

Here’s where our own VisualCue Weighting Algorithm comes in. Once you’ve gathered all the reports containing your key performance indicators we turn them into intuitive pictures so anyone can understand what they’re looking at. Management can then go in and, using our simple slider system, add weights and scores to various KPIs to reflect best practices and expectations. These weights are easy to manipulate so they can change as often as your business expectations do.

When a person, process or product slips below expectations in a certain metric the color of the corresponding cue on the Tile changes color. We use color as an indicator to instinctually draw attention to a Tile that’s in trouble. If enough cues on the Tile slip below expectation our Weighting Algorithm will change the color of the primary cue- usually the largest cue right in the middle of the VisualCue Tile- making it impossible to miss a major improvement opportunity.

tile

A single Tile can gather data from multiple sources and display your most crucial KPIs in a way that everyone can understand- it’s a predefined report on every person, process and product in your business that you can read in seconds and immediately know what actions you should take to improve.

That’s our approach to optimization analytics- gather the KPIs and see the whole story then let the world’s fastest visual processing tool- your own mind- instantly recognize the opportunities for improvement and make the informed decision. While VisualCue can certainly be paired with traditional optimization analytic engines, this is our first step in making optimization analytics accessible, easy and agile.

Kugel sees that the process of “bringing optimization to the masses is only beginning.” We agree. Great things are coming and we’re happy to be a part of helping business use this technology to improve on what they do.

Until next time,

The VisualCrew.