At this time of year, most of you are expecting me to write a post tying business with sports, but I want to surprise you with a parallel between business and the military. Many of the issues the military faces and the value it derives from reconnaissance (recon) is very similar to those game and other tech companies derive from data. In the military, recon is used to gather intelligence on the enemy. In business, analytics is used to gather intelligence on your customers. By exploring these similarities, you can better use analytics to achieve victory.
How deep to probe
One of the first question military planners face is how far to send its units. The deeper you send your assets, the more information you will gain. As they go deeper, however, the cost increasing as they are more likely to get killed or captured. You face the same decision, how many assets should you devote to getting intelligence on your customer.
To succeed in business, you first need to determine what information you need from analytics to drive your business (the military equivalent of winning a battle). Then, you need to devote sufficient resources to generate this analysis.
What assets to use
Military commanders have multiple ways to reconnoiter the enemy. They can use troops, special forces (e.g., Rangers, SAS), ships, aircraft, drones, etc. These assets are not mutually exclusive and a leader will combine them to generate the information they need.