I had the privilege to attend and speak at the MITX Data and Analytics Summit in Boston. One of the things that I took away from the event, which was excellent and enjoyable, is that analytics and measurement tools are getting more and more sophisticated (and expensive). We’re evolving our measurement and metrics tools constantly. Big Data and analysis engines and all of the wonderful technologies are changing our analysis capabilities, enhancing them, and giving us the ability to do new forms of analysis.

However, fundamentally, these tools may not help you most of the time.

Here’s why. The evolution of analytics tools is like the evolution of kitchen appliances. You can get much more done with a KitchenAid 6000 Turbo than you can with a hand-cranked egg beater. You can cook much more safely for long periods of time with a crock pot than a fireplace and a Dutch oven. If you can’t cook, then the antique egg beater is no different than the KitchenAid. You’ll still make inedible food.

Having better tools doesn’t mean you automatically have better results.

Here’s an example. During one of the presentations, there was a tool shown that allowed you to plot 1-sigma and 2-sigma variances in real-time on your marketing data. That’s very cool, but if you don’t know what variance is or why it matters, then this capability doesn’t make you a better marketer. It just adds another button in the interface that confuses you more. It’s the equivalent of an inept amateur cook using the KitchenAid 6000 Turbo. All that’s going to do is make a bigger mess in the kitchen.

Only buy what you understand.

Before you go investing in measurement tools, be sure you know what the limits are of your measurement and analytics knowledge. If spreadsheet software is the limit of your knowledge, then don’t go buying the biggest Big Data solution there is. If you can’t cook, buying kitchen gadgets will only deprive you of money you could have used on cooking lessons. The more you can improve your knowledge, the more you’ll get out of the tools you already have and the better buying decisions you can make about future tools you buy.

Invest in your knowledge first and in tools second.

In the long run, the knowledge will pay off far greater dividends than the tools will without the knowledge.

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