Elizabeth Moore is a smarter data person. Here is a transcript of my interview with her.
You’ll find the actual podcast and the links to all of the things Liz refers to here.
Hi there, this is Cindy Tonkin, you’re listening to Smarter Data People. Today’s podcast is with Elizabeth Moore, who’s one of the most wonderful clients I’ve ever worked with. She’s going to talk about stuff like how some of the best relationships are forged in disaster. What it’s like to have an inbox with more than 70,000 unread emails, and where she thinks the next level is for most data insight professionals. Listen in.
Cindy Tonkin: 00:59 I don’t know how to introduce Elizabeth Moore, it is Elizabeth Moore, she’s fabulous. Elizabeth Moore has been a friend and client since 2004 I think, 14 years. We have lived through some trials and tribulations. She’s my favorite data person, a smarter data person and she’s on Smarter Data People.
Elizabeth Moore: 01:28 Pleasure to be here.
Work smarter: work on the right things
Cindy Tonkin: 01:32 It’s kind of weird I feel like I’m running a radio show. My first question Liz, how do you work smarter? What’s your big thing do you think?
Elizabeth Moore: 01:46 It’s making sure you’re working on the right things.
Cindy Tonkin: 01:48 Okay, how do you do that?
Elizabeth Moore: 01:50 The smarter piece is, your analytics is only as good as the problem you’re trying to solve.
Cindy Tonkin: 01:58 Right, okay, yeah.
Elizabeth Moore: 02:04 There’s your sound byte. You know we can be using the best maths with the best data structure, doing the coolest things with robotics and AI and machine learning. But if we’re not actually making a difference whether that’s from a business or social perspective, then it’s all pretty much a waste of time. What is the outcome of what you’re doing, so getting really, really crisp and clear about what is it that you’re trying to solve for, a business problem that you’re trying to solve for. Can you execute off the back of what you’re doing? I think for me is how you work smarter, because it’s getting focused to what you’re doing.
Cindy Tonkin: 02:46 You’ve worked with hundreds of data analysts, world class data analysts.
Elizabeth Moore: 02:51 Indeed.
What makes a good data analyst?
Cindy Tonkin: 02:51 Across the whole gamut of industries. What makes a good one or a bad one?
Elizabeth Moore: 03:01 I think that there’s a certain given on a technical, a certain like cost of dance.
Cindy Tonkin: 03:07 Price of entry?
Elizabeth Moore: 03:07 Yeah.
Cindy Tonkin: 03:08 Cost of dance.
Elizabeth Moore: 03:10 Your ticket to the dance. You’ve got to have a certain level of technical capability, but what makes the best ones is curiosity. An ability to build relationships with the business people who are going to use your output. Given that most analytics people don’t have a product or a channel to market and we actually rely on others, because I’ve worked in large complex organizations and the stuff we do in and of itself doesn’t drive a business outcome or a social outcome. It actually needs to link into other parts of the business.
Elizabeth Moore: 03:51 The analysts that have really made a significant difference in the organization are able to link up cool, new analytic developments through to execution. Whether that’s getting a product to market, getting a message to a customer. Making a bad business decision, because it’s starting with that in mind rather than starting with cool technical kit.
Cindy Tonkin: 04:20 We don’t have a problem with cool technical kit.
Elizabeth Moore: 04:22 I love the cool technical kit.
Cindy Tonkin: 04:23 Let’s get more of that.
Elizabeth Moore: 04:25 Yeah.
Cindy Tonkin: 04:25 That’s not the outcome the client needs.
Elizabeth Moore: 04:28 It’s not the outcome the client needs and it’s not cool technical kit for the sake of having a cool technical kit. It’s not I want a giant data lake for the sake of having a giant data lake kit.
Cindy Tonkin: 04:40 I want a giant data lake.
Elizabeth Moore: 04:41 I know.
Cindy Tonkin: 04:42 Let’s go swimming.
Elizabeth Moore: 04:44 Let’s go swimming across the data sea. It’s what are you going to do with it? What is the outcome that you’re wanting to drive? You’re less likely to end up with a data white elephant if you’ve actually got some really clear business use cases that the foundation of what you’ve architected, built and then ultimately activated.
Where analysts careers get arrested
Cindy Tonkin: 05:10 Is that where people get arrested in their careers when they come to a place where they can’t do that bit?
Elizabeth Moore: 05:18 My experience is, yeah, not being able to clearly link into a business problem. The other aspect that I find is the inability to communicate what you’ve done in a way that humans can understand. The temptation to linearly explain every step of the analytic process in almost like this fairy story where you’ve got to explain every crumb through to the gingerbread house from the beginning of the wood to the end, every twist and turn, to your stakeholder. When actually all they want to know is what does the gingerbread house look like.
Cindy Tonkin: 06:08 There was that metaphor which we were using a couple of years ago about, when you go to a travel agent, they don’t go, “Well, first you’re going to have to stand in line at customs. Then you’re going to …” They’re like, “It’s a beautiful beach, you’re going to love it. You’re going to have all these wonderful things.” We want that, yeah.
Elizabeth Moore: 06:27 Doesn’t mean you’re not going to run across a stakeholder who’s going to want to know all of that detail.
Cindy Tonkin: 06:32 Where the bread crumbs come from, yeah.
Elizabeth Moore: 06:33 Where the bread crumbs come from, what are they made from, how big are the bread crumbs, what are pathway look like, what were the trees that you walked past, all of those sorts of things. There are going to be stakeholders who are going to want to get down into that detail. You’ve got to be prepared to answer those questions.
Elizabeth Moore: 06:53 For the majority of stakeholders who are completely overwhelmed with information, completely overwhelmed with things that are demanding their attention, anything you can do to really cut through and clarify what it is they need to do off the back of the insights that you’ve generated.
Elizabeth Moore: 07:12 I think to me it’s that switch from “I’m an analyst” to “I’m an insight professional”, that is where people get stuck, through assuming that if somebody doesn’t actually understand the maths they’re an idiot. We were talking yesterday on our walk about “they need to know”. Assuming someone says, “they just need to understand”.
Cindy Tonkin: 07:46 You’ve lost it.
Elizabeth Moore: 07:47 You’ve lost it, you really need to be able to explain the insight in a way that drives action, whether that’s business action, whether that’s social, whether that’s whatever industry you’re working in. In the industries that are working and it’s usually you’re wanting a business decision often because I’m working in a marketing context. We want to be able to take an action that results in earning a better interaction with the customer.
Cindy Tonkin: 08:18 Absolutely.
Elizabeth Moore: 08:19 That’s a bit of service interaction, a bit of sales interaction that actually results in the customer being better off for using all this data and analytics to do that. There are long, complex processes. In large complex organizations you need to be convincing the product people and the channel people and the strategy people that all of these things need to come together to result in an offer in-store or a digital banner ad that’s different from what it would have been otherwise.
Cindy Tonkin: 08:54 You are constantly persuading, influencing, informing, cajoling. I know that you use a number of tools. I know that the Enneagram’s one of your tools. Are there other tools? Do you want to just talk about how you use those tools?
Elizabeth Moore: 09:11 Yeah. You may consciously start thinking of what type of stakeholder you’re dealing with, how they want to consume information, where they are coming from. It could be me using any brand type or Strengthsfinder thinking actually there are …
Elizabeth Moore: 09:38 They’re a Learner. They’ve got a strong learning function and actually taking them something really interesting. Or they could be somebody who’s driven by innovation and actually going to a stakeholder saying, “We’ve got this cool, new technique. You’re product is special, gorgeous and different and we want to use this cool, new technique and be first in the world at doing this” is going to motivate them to want to buy into whatever project you’re trying to get off the ground.
Elizabeth Moore: 10:03 It’s crafting the messages to how do you think that individual is going to want to see, and that’s really important to see each person you’re dealing with is an individual, who thinks differently, motivated differently. Getting to know people and very much being almost like an internal consulting team. You want to work with people that you like honestly.
Cindy Tonkin: 10:30 Don’t we all, absolutely.
Elizabeth Moore: 10:32 Get to know the people that you’re working with and find …
Cindy Tonkin: 10:36 What you can like about them.
Elizabeth Moore: 10:37 What you can like about them, what they can like about you. I don’t know, my experience with the stakeholders is the best relationships are often forged in disasters.
Cindy Tonkin: 10:52 A few minutes in the trenches together and we’re happy forever.
Elizabeth Moore: 10:57 The project that’s gone wrong, having to front up to a senior stakeholders steering committee and basically go…
Cindy Tonkin: 11:06 We don’t have the thing.
Elizabeth Moore: 11:07 We don’t have the thing, it’s broken, it will never be, and working together through those sorts of things are really where you forge strong bonds.
Cindy Tonkin: 11:18 It’s actually not necessarily a bad thing to have a small disaster early on in a project?
Elizabeth Moore: 11:22 No. I don’t think so. I wouldn’t go out of my way to create a disaster, but you can use small setbacks in a project as well as being able to bond with the other members working.
Cindy Tonkin: 11:39 It’s not the end of the earth to come back and say, “We’re behind schedule and here’s what we’re going to do to fix it,”?
Elizabeth Moore: 11:44 Correct and early and often that’s another thing that I find that you need to work with earnest early in your career. A tendency to helping them overcome the tendency to adjust one set here and work on the data. If something goes wrong, hunkering down, going to ground is never a good idea.
Cindy Tonkin: 12:14 That’s what they want to do.
Elizabeth Moore: 12:16 Yeah. Often, look it’s what we all want to do. Nobody actually likes having to ring up someone and saying, “It’s going to be late,” or, “I’m stuffed up,” or …
Cindy Tonkin: 12:26 “We can’t do what we thought it was going to do.”
Elizabeth Moore: 12:29 It just doesn’t work, and it happens all the time, because often it’s experimental. You don’t know. A lot of the stuff that analytics are doing particularly now, we’re pushing the boat out on what the technology and the data could do. Sometimes stuff just doesn’t work. The data feed breaks, the data warehouse is down. Where you thought the data was last week is now somewhere else. Which means that the promise to deliver by Friday, you’re not going to make it. As soon as you’re going to miss that, pick up the phone, have an in-person conversation if you can. Face to face if you can, definitely on the phone as I second, don’t send an email, “I’m on the way.”
Cindy Tonkin: 13:20 Or just a text. Or text and go away for the weekend.
Elizabeth Moore: 13:23 Text, I’d go face to face, phone call, text then email. The reason that I say that is emails are just over in my experience.
Cindy Tonkin: 13:35 Yeah, there’s so many.
Elizabeth Moore: 13:36 There’s so many. I get from a work perspective, I’m dealing with like 250, 300 a day. I may be dealing with them in the middle of the night.
Cindy Tonkin: 13:50 What about when meetings go wrong, so, have you been in meetings? What kind of meetings? Are there stories you can release to the general public about meetings that have gone wrong or advice you can give about that, when a meeting goes off the rails? Why does it go off rails? Has it been rescued?
Elizabeth Moore: 14:12 Yeah. Meetings often go off the rails because you hadn’t prepared for the meeting. My experience is, when I kind of look back and think and reflect about why did that stuff up, it’s because I hadn’t prepared properly. I either haven’t gotten across the content enough detail or I haven’t sure up, or I haven’t managed the social process effectively before the meeting happens.
Cindy Tonkin: 14:40 Right. Yeah.
Elizabeth Moore: 14:41 I think there’s a classic one that you and I have spoken about a number of times, where we were working with somebody who was trying to get a very large capital project funded. I’ve done this as well. It’s a mistake that you often make early in your career is, you assume you’re the smartest person in the room and that you can actually scoot on into the room, tell this amazing story, put up your slides and everyone’s going to go, “I want one.”
Elizabeth Moore: 15:15 It goes wrong when you actually haven’t thought about each of the stakeholders, go on and seeing them beforehand. If you’re going in and asking for something big, you want to make sure you’ve got most of the people in the room lined up and it’s just a tick. There’s the meetings before the meetings, and I know that that sounds really time consuming, but there are people who are going to be able to help you get your idea across. Going and saying, “I need your help with this meeting. This is what I’m trying to achieve. Can you give me some advice on the best way to do that?” Will actually
Cindy Tonkin: 15:55 Build a relationship and get you data.
Elizabeth Moore: 15:57 … build a relationship, get the data across, get the project across. There’s the big meetings where you’re trying to get a decision to go your way, and it’s never going to happen in the way it happens.
Cindy Tonkin: 16:11 That’s not where the decision is made?
Elizabeth Moore: 16:13 No.
Cindy Tonkin: 16:13 It’s not in the room where it happens, thank you Hamilton.
Elizabeth Moore: 16:15 It’s not in the room where it happens, it’s not. See if we can look our way through all relationships.
Cindy Tonkin: 16:20 I’m not throwing away my shot.
Elizabeth Moore: 16:21 I’m not throwing away my shot. Then there are just presentations that have gone completely feral because you’ve fallen in love with the technique. You’ve fallen in love with the analytic process and you’ve completely forgotten about what are we here to do, to drive a business outcome. I’ve done that.
Elizabeth Moore: 16:49 It’s like people don’t care. They mentally go to Fiji when you’re off on your fancy of delight talking about the elegance of the awesome technique. How do you re-purpose choice modeling to do something absolutely amazing, and you think “No one cares”. What they care about is what am I going to do as a result of knowing this. Most people don’t care. If you do think that there’s somebody going to care about technique, do them before them.
Cindy Tonkin: 17:23 Do them before the meeting.
Elizabeth Moore: 17:25 Do that.
Cindy Tonkin: 17:25 That’s the sound byte.
Elizabeth Moore: 17:26 That is the sound byte. Do the engagement before the meeting. Stay half an hour with them, get them across the technical details that you think that they may need to support you in the meeting. The other one is not telling the story.
Cindy Tonkin: 17:45 Yeah, that’s if you don’t tell a story you’ve got a problem.
Elizabeth Moore: 17:48 Yeah. We kind of talk about, we’ve been talking a lot about the triangle and inverting the triangle when I sort of think … This kind of, probably it doesn’t work as well on a podcast as it does on a white board. If you think about an inverted, a triangle inverted with the point down at the bottom underneath, most analytic processes, insight processes the way we approach this is we’ve got all this data, so broad and wide at the top and then we funnel and we funnel and we funnel.
Elizabeth Moore: 18:23 We come to the point and there’s the answer. There’s a real temptation for us to tell our story, the parallels, the analytic process which is broad and narrow, broad and pointed. You bore people mindless doing that. You lose them. They’re not interested, they are really, we’re going to do a page turn on. If it’s a research project, every cross-tab you ran, every spreadsheet curve, every pivot that you looked at in your pivot table. We talk about inverting that triangle and-
Cindy Tonkin: 19:10 Starting with the answer?
Elizabeth Moore: 19:11 … starting with the answer and then what are the three or four maximum 12 backup pieces of data that support that.
Cindy Tonkin: 19:23 You were telling me yesterday about, there are some consulting teams you’ve seen who start with the answer and then find the data that goes behind it. What’s your thought about that?
Elizabeth Moore: 19:33 I think there’s a lot we can learn from the way they present information. When you think about, when I think about what is seen as the gold standard in corporate Australia for corporate storytelling. It is the big consulting firms and the way they approach telling the story and presenting it. The slides are beautiful, they’re so beautiful you’d want to lick them. That they’re nicely designed.
Cindy Tonkin: 20:04 They’ve got fat, salt and sugar.
Elizabeth Moore: 20:05 They do have fat, salt and sugar and they’ve got lots of white space. They’ve got a consistent font, the shots are labeled and there’s no pie charts or very rarely pie charts, which keeps Rusty happy. That’s the gold standard of strategy presentations or presentations. Stakeholders are used to seeing that as the gold standard. If you think about the quality of the storyteller and analytic presentation, that most analytic teams are serving up to those same stakeholders …
Cindy Tonkin: 20:49 It looks like a poor cousin.
Elizabeth Moore: 20:50 They’re just worlds apart in the visual presentation, those sorts of things. While I’m not necessarily a fan of “This is the answer, let’s go find data to support it”, I think that there’s a lot that we can learn from those strategy houses about how to present the story in a way that is crisp and clear. Draw the business people to understand the insights and the action that needs to be taken off the back of them. I’m not an advocate for this is the answer, go find where the data that supports the answer. I’m not …
Cindy Tonkin: 21:26 You’re an advocate for high production values around the final presentation that seems as if you may have done that even if you did it the right way?
Elizabeth Moore: 21:34 Well I think it comes back to what is the language, since the stakeholders are used to engaging in around high quality advice. That’s what they’re used to when it comes up. High quality advice is those beautiful presentations that have got the business insight at the top and then supporting data. I think that there’s a lot that we can learn as a profession about not forcing our stakeholders to sit through the inverted pyramid. With all the fat data at the top down to the bottom, waiting for an hour.
Cindy Tonkin: 22:16 To get to the answer.
Elizabeth Moore: 22:16 Or we may or may not get to the meetings.
Cindy Tonkin: 22:20 We don’t even do the,”after the break, you’ll hear the three reasons why you should keep on listening”.
Elizabeth Moore: 22:28 Yeah, so I think that there’s stuff that we can learn from them. I think we as a profession have gone, “Oh no we’re not management consultants. They are the spawn of Satan and they’re trying to cut our lunch and they’re trying to steal our work. I don’t get it.” Actually they consistently engage to provide high level advice to boards and top levels.
Cindy Tonkin: 22:49 They are getting it on some level?
Elizabeth Moore: 22:51 They are getting it right on some level. It’s like they’re smarter than us. I actually think that, well …
Cindy Tonkin: 22:58 Often they are just us three weeks later.
Elizabeth Moore: 23:02 Yeah, and they are indeed taking analytics that we’ve done. So often I hear from my team, “But that’s our work.” It’s like well, it is to a point, they look better. They’re better at telling the story. The reason that they were able to get traction and the reason that they were employed in the first place is because we failed to tell the story in a way that engaged the senior people to take the strategy decision, that we knew need to happen all along.
Cindy Tonkin: 23:34 This is a skills gap ultimately.
Elizabeth Moore: 23:35 Yeah, shame on us. Yeah, it’s a skills gap, so we need to be really cognisant. And allocate time and allocating resources to telling stories. Also, what can we shamelessly steal from the way strategy happens? Yeah.
Cindy Tonkin: 23:55 Yeah, how do we copy the good bits, model what they’re doing well?
Elizabeth Moore: 23:58 I’m hiring people who are ex-strategy consultants into the team, because I actually think that that’s what’s needed to actually take the function to the next level.
Cindy Tonkin: 24:08 Because you can, exactly.
Elizabeth Moore: 24:11 Well, because you can, but also it’s a necessary skill. The analytics and things smart with analytics is a necessary, but not sufficient condition to drive to action.
Cindy Tonkin: 24:23 How do you keep your professional development going? What do you do? What do you listen to? What do you watch? Who do you pay attention to?
Elizabeth Moore: 24:29 Who I pay attention to. There’s a couple of ways I do that. I’m relying on my partners, my external partners and so that could be consulting houses. It could be technical companies, software companies. It could be market research people. I think there’s probably four ways that I look to ensure that I’m getting professional development that I need.
Elizabeth Moore: 25:00 It’s really important to me, because I’ve got a high amount of function, super curious. I want to do interesting innovative stuff. I get one overseas trip a year, paid for by my company, thank you very much, where I get to go and visit a range of different software companies and also peers around the world who are doing stuff, where we swap ideas.
Elizabeth Moore: 25:22 That’s really, really important to me, so that’s a couple of ways of just thinking time and innovation time. I try to mix it up with going and seeing people who are working in my industry as well as people who are working in adjacent industries, in different industries in analytics. Then you end up with a nice global network of people you can then ring, “Have you done this, have you tried that?”
Elizabeth Moore: 25:50 The other one is staying really, really close to your partners. Consulting companies, research houses, software vendors, hardware vendors. They’re often able to get out of Australia more than we are, letting them know the questions that you’re wanting to ask or want answers to.
Cindy Tonkin: 26:12 What’s on your mind, yeah.
Elizabeth Moore: 26:14 Basically say, “Look, I’m interested in as you move from marketing and campaigns to marketing in customer journeys, we need to evolve, who’s done that best practice?” We set that question lose and they’ll come back in.
Cindy Tonkin: 26:30 They want to please you and they want to sell you more stuff.
Elizabeth Moore: 26:32 They want to sell you more stuff, and so a way of all putting value adding to an existing relationship, those sorts of things. Staying really close to that, and then following interesting people on Twitter or LinkedIn, seeing what they’re doing. I listen to a lot of stuff. I like to get out and go for long walks on the weekend, and I’ll have lots of podcast backed up. I love Adam Grant, I think we both have a-
Cindy Tonkin: 27:05 Yes, we love Adam Grant.
Elizabeth Moore: 27:06 … professional crush on Adam Grant.
Cindy Tonkin: 27:07 Absolutely.
Elizabeth Moore: 27:08 Who’s awesome, Malcolm Gladwell. I really like Shane Parrish’s work, the Knowledge Project. I like reading his emails, but I really like listening to his long form interviews. I think he’s a really great interviewer.
Cindy Tonkin: 27:22 Fabulous.
Elizabeth Moore: 27:23 Always have super, super interesting people on there. Then that kind of takes you down a rabbit hole. Freakonomics, I like listening to Freakonomics.
Cindy Tonkin: 27:35 Your background is economics, that was your first degree.
Elizabeth Moore: 27:38 My first degree is economics, and I like that approach. I also like listening to sociology things as well. I listen to a lot of Slate podcasts. I really like, it is now the Waves, but it used to be XX. It’s a number of women talking about what they’re reading, what they’re thinking, what they’re saying in society and that will then send me off on other things.
Elizabeth Moore: 28:13 It’s not just data and analytics, it’s what’s happening in business. It’s what’s happening in academia and what’s happening broader. It’s often stuff that you can pick up that’s completely unrelated. Malcolm Gladwell, for example. there are really, really interesting things that makes you think about what we’re doing differently. He’s such a good storyteller.
Cindy Tonkin: 28:34 He’s fabulous. I love when he gets really excited and annoyed. “What I’m talking about here,” I love it.
Elizabeth Moore: 28:43 The stuff he was doing on memory I think was really, really interesting too.
Cindy Tonkin: 28:47 Oh yeah, the pilot thing, yes. The pilot and the news journalist.
Elizabeth Moore: 28:53 The journalist and then how that then transitioned into supposed academic fraud, when actually it was, they were just errors, because people were pulling ideas together. For me it’s thinking about how do I use those little gems in what I do, whether that’s thinking about what that means for example, I run a research function. We’re often asking people to recall how they behaved.
Cindy Tonkin: 29:28 How they liked that product. Yeah. When you first got this product what did you do?
Elizabeth Moore: 29:31 Last time when you were what did you do and what did you think? There’s lots of sort of neuroscience and things like that that can get picked up and used in and thought about how we approach, how we do our work. I often kind of find myself going down podcast holes. You pick up one, you pick up Adam Grant and then you’re lead to or found Adam Grant via Malcolm Gladwell. I also like, there’s NPR podcasts, oh I like This American Life, and I also like How I Built This.
Elizabeth Moore: 30:17 It’s the series of entrepreneurs talking about their companies.
Cindy Tonkin: 30:21 That’s the one where I listened to the Airbnb guy that I was talking about.
Elizabeth Moore: 30:25 How I Built This or I Built This or it’s an NPR one.
Cindy Tonkin: 30:29 Yeah, it fabulous.
Elizabeth Moore: 30:30 It’s a guy from This American Life thing.
Cindy Tonkin: 30:33 Dyson, have you ever seen How I Built This with Dyson?
Elizabeth Moore: 30:36 I haven’t listened to that one.
Cindy Tonkin: 30:41 Listen to Dyson.
Elizabeth Moore: 30:42 Listen to Dyson. I like listening to the way people think. I will listen to Will Anderson’s Wilosophy if he has guests that I’m interested in, and that could be music, it could be a writer, it could be somebody who’s working in a refugee advocacy, those sorts of things.
Cindy Tonkin: 31:08 Yeah, it’s not restricted in subject matter.
Elizabeth Moore: 31:10 I think all the, so it fills my curiosity, and you actually need to have different points of view and different ways of thinking that actually you’re bringing a richer palette to your problem solving.
Cindy Tonkin: 31:25 Nice. I think that’s a perfect place to finish. Thank you for fueling my curiosity.
Elizabeth Moore: 31:30 Cool.
Cindy Tonkin: 31:31 Thank you.
Elizabeth Moore: 31:32 Thank you.
Cindy Tonkin: 31:34 Let’s stop.
Cindy Tonkin: 31:42 I’m sure your curiosity has been fueled. If you want to have links to any of the things that Liz mentioned during the podcast you can find them at smarterdatapeople.com. I’m Cindy Tonkin I’m the Consultants Consultant I help your data science teams work faster, smarter and nicer, and help you build analytics capability. You can contact me at cindytonkin.com/chat.
You’ll find the actual podcast and the links to all of the things Liz refers to here.