Water, Water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink!

How can you create an analytically driven culture?


A few years ago, Joey Fitts and I had the opportunity to work closely with hundreds of companies and study their analytics practices. The result of our work ended up in a book that rapidly became a bestseller. We thought our book was good - of course! :) - but I think the truth was that the subject of “analytical cultures” was a widely popular one. Very few companies were able to create repeatable and sustainable practices that put analytics at the center of their culture.

At the time, we had identified a set of traits organizations needed to exhibit in order to develop what we called an “analytically driven culture”. I had assumed then, that as technologies evolved, these traits would too.

Yet, in the many more interactions I’ve had with leaders since we published the book, I discovered that the attributes of performance stand the test of time and that, regardless of technologies, there is always a set of principles analytically driven organizations follow. These principles are true across industries too. If you listened to the stories of $1.5B healthcare leader CareCore or the analytics journey of rapidly growing SaaS player Xactly, you’d find very similar approaches to the way analytics are built and operationalized.

In a nutshell, analytics leaders adamantly care about data quality, consistently look for ways to broaden their understanding by tapping into more data and finally cross the chasm when they have the tools that allow them to iterate and collaborate across IT and business boundaries without any friction. There is however one more thing the best of the best do.

To dissect that principle, I’ve asked Morgan Stanley’s Head of Investment Platforms, Jeff McMillan to join me in an interactive webinar next Thursday at 10 AM PST.

I’ll give you a hint. The principle has something to do with the famous “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” poem. I’ve pasted the poem below. Joe Otto, my CEO, gets credit for this analogy and I think you will find that it hits the main issue with the analytics world today. Read the below excerpt - particularly the last verse - and see if you can guess what principle we might be referring to.

Can you guess what this principle is? Reserve your spot now and come prepared with questions!


The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797–98. Excerpt below.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.


Bruno Aziza is a big data entrepreneur and author. He has lead marketing at multiple startups and has worked at Microsoft, Apple, and BusinessObjects/SAP. One of his startups sold to Symantec in 2008, and two of them have raised tens of millions and experienced triple digit growth. Bruno is currently Chief Marketing Officer at Alpine Data Labs. You can contact him @bruno@alpinenow.com.


Read next:

Working At The Boundaries Of Aesthetics And Inference