Balancing heuristics and data

Why a focus purely on data can miss the big picture

Quantitative data is objective, available to anyone in the company and allows any idea to be challenged. Data has benefits over just reporting and measuring change. Used correctly it can help us find new use cases or problems in our product, finding bugs and prioritising different opportunities. It’s no surprise that given the increasing ease with which data can be collected that there has been a surge towards ‘data driven’ companies.

At Skyscanner we have loads data; With over 3 million travellers a day using our products we can measure really small differences in almost any metric we care to investigate.

Data visualisation of traveller flow through the Skyscanner app

While data makes decisions more objective and tradeoffs more precise there is a dark side. Too much data can lead to analysis paralysis. Lack of data can build barriers against taking action and in the worst case bad data or data interpreted incorrectly can lead to bad decisions that defy common sense.

In this presentation I will highlight by example some of the dangers of relying only on numbers and argue that a balance of heuristics and data will outperform an over-reliance on either one.

This talk was part of Product Management Festival 2017.

You can watch the video here and download the slide deck here

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About the author

David is a principal product manager at Skyscanner who loves working on hard problems in travel. In a previous life he was a stem cell scientist where he cut his teeth in experimentation.

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