Data is the Antidote for Emotion

Good data can dissolve high pressure situations

Our High-Pressure World

In today’s “always-on”, “what have you done for me lately”, “do more with less” world that we all live in, constant stress is a given. We all feel the pressure to continuously deliver outstanding results so we don’t end up on the next layoff list, and that was the case even before the new world of COVID lockdowns which put roughly 35 million people in the US unemployment lines.

With everyone feeling that level of pressure, our interactions can become highly emotional experiences despite everyone’s best efforts to remain calm. None of us are fully immune. The good news is that emotional conversations can be converted into fact-based conversations with a small investment in good data collection.

The System Is Down Again!

For those of us who develop applications or those who use them, this is one of the least favorite conversations. Product Owner says, “I’m getting complaints from all over that the system is down”. Application manager says, “I don’t have any support tickets”. The conversation gets worse from there and is likely full of emotion on both sides.

With modern instrumented monitoring of applications and full transparency this can be a completely different conversation or better yet not even a conversation at all. Modern monitoring tools are now capable of instrumenting applications with “use case” monitoring that simulate actual user activity. In addition, they can run the tests from multiple geographies. This gives the application support team advanced notice of issues even though the low-level IT monitors (e.g. CPU/Memory/IO utilization, Transaction Volumes, etc.) are still all green.

Next, by putting this information in a dashboard that is visible to all end-users, you are then enabled to have a fact-based conversation like this. Application manager calls Product Owner and says “We have detected an issue with Use Case X for users based in China. Everything else is working properly. We have opened a ticket and are investigating it now”. Clearly, that is the conversation that anyone would rather have.

We Must Squeeze More Into The Next Sprint!

I can still remember the day I became a fan of the Agile methodology; it came when I heard a Product Owner and Development Manager talking about the approach. The Development Manager said, “Our squad has a velocity of 250 story points, we need 50 points to address technical debt so the Product Manager’s budget for the next sprint is 200 story points.” What a healthy way to manage that relationship!

The only way to enjoy that kind of fact-based conversation versus an emotional conversation is having the data. Therefore, the impetus is on the agile squad to be very diligent in assigning story points to the stories on their backlog and then tracking the squad’s velocity. The absence of that diligence leads to emotional conversations where the amount of work that gets crammed into your next sprint devolves into a battle of wills.

Having a well-groomed backlog with good story point estimates and well tracked velocity that is fully transparent to the entire squad and product owner easily focuses the conversation on the facts.

Our Conversion Rates Are Terrible!

Any good Digital Transformation leader will be extremely focused on the conversion rates at various points across their company’s digital funnel. This is a good start because the conversation is starting with data. However, from there it can easily descend into speculation on the root causes based on gut feel and intuition.

Let’s use the example of live chat. We have all seen the live chat icon on a website or seen a pop-up invitation to join a chat. Sometimes they are welcome and sometimes that are nuisance. How do you know which approach works best? The good news is that there are tools that can easily run A/B, or even better, multi-variant tests on your website. These tools will randomly offer different experiences to your customers, track the results, and then tell you when they have collected enough data to make a statistically significant recommendation.

Once you have that information, you can then have a fact-based conversation on the changes you should make to improve your conversion rates.

We Can’t Survive Without A Guaranteed Paycheck!

Many have considered leaving the security of a regular paycheck in favor of running their own business. One of the key fears of course is wondering how long you could survive on your savings while you try to get your new business up and running. For many that conversation is based purely on gut feel, which would leave anyone with a lot of anxiety.

Luckily, there are a lot of easy-to-use tools available today that can quickly import your spending transactions from your bank, credit card companies, and others. These tools have also become particularly good at automatically categorizing your spending, so you can see exactly where your money has been going with very little effort on your part.

Spending as little as 15 minutes a week importing your expenses can provide you with immensely valuable data as you consider the budget you need to live on and provide you the facts you need as you consider venturing out on your own.

To Sum Up

It’s hard to put a price on collecting good data and it’s easy to be pressured into putting it off, but after a few difficult emotional-driven conversations, you will be wishing you had invested the time for collecting good data so you could have a fact-based conversations instead.

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