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September 25, 2014
King's Corner

Double Down on Data

So, you’re sitting at a Blackjack table in Vegas. You are playing stakes at a level at which you are comfortable, e.g. $10 per hand. And the dealer (let’s call him Steve) starts dealing the cards. Steve turns over a 6 for you on your first card, and he keeps on dealing. As he comes back to your spot in the rotation, he turns over a 5, leaving you with an 11. As he deals the final card to himself, you see that Steve has dealt himself a 6, with his other card face down. The players to your right make their requisite decisions to hit (get another card) or to pass (settle with the set that they have), and it comes to your turn. Do you pass and stay with an 11? Unlikely, since you can still take another card and not exceed 21 (the point of Blackjack is to get close as to 21 without going over). You could hit, and play out the hand, hoping to improve your chances of winning, or you can double down. What does that mean? Put down another $10 (i.e. double your bet) and take one (and only one) more card. Sounds like quite a gamble, right?

Now, maybe I’ve had one too many discussions with Blackjack dealers, but I will say this. The good ones will always give you their opinion without prejudice. The odds are already in the house’s (casino’s) favor, so they aren’t going to give away any secrets that suddenly lead to Vegas casinos going broke from paying out Blackjack winnings. Rather, the best dealers simply try to give insight into your odds, and encourage you to maximize your potential when the odds are in your favor. When you have an 11, the odds are over 50% you will end up with a 17 or better, and over 30% that you’ll end up with a 21 if you draw another card. Add in the fact that there is a high likelihood that Steve is going to bust with his 6 showing, and everyone will tell you that this is an obvious “double down” situation.

While you consider what to do with your 11 when the dealer has a 6 showing, let me talk about something other than gambling, your company’s information, your customers’ information and all the related information that may help you make better decisions. Do you have 2 stores that are kicking butt and 1 store that’s flailing? What does the information you have tell you? What is the neighborhood demographic of the stores that are rolling? What is the demographic in the neighborhood that isn’t? Are we talking about an unsuccessful Apple Store in the heart of a retirement community? Are we talking about a Wealth Management branch in a college town? Or perhaps, we could simply be talking about bad management practices at one location that has nothing to do with neighborhood demographics at all. The point is, there is information that could provide insight to answer these questions. Some of that information is internal to a company (e.g. sales figures, employee performance management, hours of operation, etc.) and some is external to a company (e.g. weather, social media, census, etc.).

One of the funny things about word origination, and the ultimate meaning of words, is that sometimes we use certain words so often that we forget their original meaning. Many of us talk about the need for leadership in companies to make “informed” decisions. Well, by definition, one must have information (accurate, timely and complete) in order to make fully informed decision. Yet, why is it that so many decisions still leverage gut instinct and intuition, lacking the information to be fully informed?

The world is changing quickly. Mobile devices have become a conduit to the consumer. Information about the consumer, their location and their wireless provider is everywhere. Uber allows their drivers to rate their riders, which allows them to choose who to pick up based on their rating. OpenTable allows restaurants to rate diners, and prepare a table accordingly based on your past dining treatment to other restaurants. eBay, Amazon, Yelp and Angie’s List allow the consumer to dictate (and essentially market on behalf of) where future consumers turn. The world is changing quickly. And information/data is at the heart of it.

Now, I’m not going to suggest that every company needs to suddenly invest in a Twitter, Facebook and Yelp full scale data collection and data warehousing environment for data mining. However, I will suggest that I have rarely (if ever) seen a company maximize its own potential without leveraging the information inside its own four (metaphorical) walls. What do you know about your customers and how might you use that information to identify your next customers? What do you know about your former customers, and how might you use that information to retain those customers who may be thinking of leaving now? The answer is to become “informed,” and the means is to unleash the data at your disposal. This is what Kenway’s Information Insight practice does, weaving Data Governance, Data Management and Business Intelligence together to allow companies to become more “informed.” Many companies are sitting on an 11, but are not pulling the trigger to double down. So, back to the Blackjack table. You are sitting on an 11, and the dealer is showing a 6. Are you ready to double down?

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