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Spandrels: A new perspective on Data Analytics at Fortune 500 Companies – Part 2

POSTED IN: Data Analytics & Visualization Blog

In Part 1 of this blog series - we introduced the term SPANDREL- an architectural term describing the area where two arches that come together - and also used by geneticists to describe secondary byproducts of adaptions that were not necessarily adaptations themselves - but that were later co-opted for a current use.  

Our goal is to to examine the modern corporation - a typical Fortune 500 company - and apply the Spandrel Metaphor to it - as it relates to Data Analytics.

The premise?  That at most Fortune 500 Companies, there exist frameworks and capabilities that support other normal business functions - and that at key intersections - there exists enormous potential for Data Analytics and disruptive innovation.

This blog is draft / ideation stage - so please forgive the informal approach...

The Four Arches:


  1. DATA > Data & Data Warehouses - 
    • Original Intent: Byproducts of managing what you measure; typical business tracking; CRM; data breadcrumbs; operational data; IT data; 
    • Spandrel Superpower: aggregated, these 'dark data assets' create a data mountain; data merged with other data creates a cross-pollination - an insight multiplier; dark data holds many secrets; and much of the data is ONLY available to company. 
  2. BI CAPABILITIES > Traditional Business Intelligence & Analysts
    • Original Intent: Tracking and Measuring the Business; First-order insights;  KPIs & Metrics
    • Spandrel Superpower:  A foundation on which to build the Spandrel; Basic tools; Frameworks in orgs that have budget and sit near second order analytics (in reach); data cleaning and clean data; 
  3. RAW TALENT > Enthusiastic Talent & Curiosity: 
    • Original Intent: Hiring good people;  Positive work culture; Creative thinking; Enthusiasm to innovate; Bold souls who are not afraid to experiment and to fail at core business, will also be driven to succeed at the edges
    • Spandrel Superpower: A team of people who 'think data';  keeners who love to explore, to dig for insights;  Especially useful when provided access to #1, and leveraging tools and people from #2 to drive towards 'actionable intelligence' 
  4. CONNECTIONS > Rolodex and Relationships
    • Original Intent: Relationships that are part of standard course of business; 
    • Spandrel Superpower: Other profit motivated organizations that may have a big piece of the puzzle; the other half of the arch.  Often, the #1 Data is one part of a bigger solution - potential partners can often bring talent or other data to the party - and the #2 team can help get access to/from.


Start here?

So this begs the question - if this is a valid mental model - so what?  How can it be applied to generate shareholder value?

Potential benefits may include:

  • Shared model and language will help get people on same page - to better decide if there exists potential 
  • Managers can understand non-core benefits to company - and can be coached to allow flexibility & judgement
  • Leaders can help break down the walls - where a clear cost/benefit argument can be made;  
  • If sensible, leadership can create safe spaces to experiment - time, space, money, talent to explore - and flexibility to fail.  
  • Create space to "Let the ideas breathe"
  • Provide a foundation model to 'hack' and make our own - i.e. slice and dice to apply to unique circumstances
  • Foster a culture of sensible risk

Interested in more content by this author?

About the Author

Ryan Anderson

Ryan Anderson

Hi! I like to play with data, analytics and hack around with robots and gadgets in my garage. Lately I've been learning about machine learning.

About this blog

Description is...<br/>Data Analytics & Visualization Blog - Generating insights from Data since 2013

Created: July 25, 2014


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