All Articles by Date

Stressed office worker at laptop.

How do you make data products and services engaging without AI and advanced analytics?

By Brian T. O'Neill | March 5, 2019

Low engagement; it’s a common challenge for many of my clients and the people I talk to in the analytics world. In fact, it’s the subject of my talk this year at the IIA Symposium next week. One of the concepts with design I like clients to think about with analytics is around whether your … Read more

Check engine light on car dashboard illuminated

Is an engineering or data-driven culture driving your current data product or analytics initiative toward risk?

By Brian T. O'Neill | February 19, 2019

Here are (25) design faults that should trigger the check-engine light I really don’t know much about cars. Furthermore, with all the computers on them now, I probably never will. However, I do care when the “CEL” goes on. The CEL, or check-engine light, is that often cryptic, blood-pressure-raising notification that mostly just makes you … Read more

Engagement Rings

Why Low Engagement May Not be the Problem With Your Data Product or Analytics Service

By Brian T. O'Neill | February 7, 2019

If you’re concerned about low engagement with your enterprise data product, analytics service, or decision support tool, then you might be focusing on the wrong problem. What you need to do is design an engaging experience, instead of focusing on the quantity of engagement. Gartner just posted new numbers in early 2019; once again, 80% … Read more

Toy men assembling something with frustration

Keeping Analytics Solutions in Check with Customer Needs

By Brian T. O'Neill | January 22, 2019

Ears, Eyes and Empathy Guide the Best MVPs AI and Machine Learning Are Not a Panacea for Every Analytics Problem  Since AI, predictive, and prescriptive analytics are big right now, there is a tendency for companies to “want” to use this technology and throw it into their marketing jargon as well. Boards and executives are … Read more

Rough prototype of a miniature car powered by a AA battery

Designing MVPs for Data Products and Decision Support Tools

By Brian T. O'Neill | January 10, 2019

Author’s Note: This article was originally published to my mailing list, hence the reference to previous emails and published podcast episodes.   Before I jump into this week’s article on MVPs for custom data products, just wanted to address one listener’s response to the new podcast in case others had the same experience. Re: the audio … Read more

Scalpels for surgery

Does your data product enable surgery, or healing?

By Brian T. O'Neill | December 11, 2018

I recently started playing percussion in a new Celtic ensemble in Boston called Ishna, and we were recently invited to be a guest artist with Symphony NH (New Hampshire). After our concerts concluded, the executive director invited Ishna to a dinner with some of the symphony staff and  board members. This is pretty typical: board members … Read more

Reasons your next sprint, product, or project might fail

By Brian T. O'Neill | October 2, 2018

Good design happens at the intersection of discovering real user needs/wants and business goals that are ACTIONABLE (by design and engineering). Yes, there’s a little magic/instinct that creeps into good design too, but you can get far without a lot of this magic. It’s really more about nailing the problem set, and having really clear … Read more

Commuters in a Terminal

Why the difference between design and Design may make or break your data product.

By Brian T. O'Neill | October 2, 2018

Good Design–what I sometimes call—”Capital D Design”—has the power to make your data sing, delight customers/users, bring new/better ROI to your organization, provide inspiration to teams, reduce complexity, reduce engineering cost, save time for users, and expose new value in your existing service. However, the big gains usually don’t come from focusing on the surface level alone. Better data visualization cannot fix every data product and analytics problem.

Design KPIs – what improvement did you celebrate in your last analytics software release?

By Brian T. O'Neill | October 2, 2018

I know to a lot of software teams, getting features/fixes/releases out the door feels like improvement. However, did you actually create or improve the value of your service? To to that, you have to understand what your users actually value, so you can align your efforts accordingly. Most of the time, these nuggets of useful … Read more

Dashboard Design: Is Maximum Simplicity the Goal?

By Brian T. O'Neill | July 22, 2018

Should maximum simplicity dictate success? We all love usability these days right? “User experience is important.” Of course it is! But, it doesn’t mean that every user you show the design to is going to, or should immediately be able to, understand fully what you’re showing them. Why? Most valuable things in life take a … Read more

Tons of road signs on a mountain pointing to multiple places

From a data scientist on Medium: “It’s easy to not understand your customer’s needs.”

By Brian T. O'Neill | May 17, 2018

…or not. Really: you can spend a little more time, and probably a lot less money, doing these things before committing the resources to implementation of something that may have zero value to anyone.

It’s the translation that makes your data sing – what song are you singing?

By Brian T. O'Neill | May 10, 2018

Some of you probably know by now that I’m also a musician, and this includes composing for my instrumental jazz/chamber music quintet. What does this have to do with translation of your data? When I talk about data in on the DFA mailing list, I’m usually talking about the raw ingredients that may (or may … Read more

How to solicit *real* needs from users via UX research interviews

By Brian T. O'Neill | May 1, 2018

Readers of DFA know that I’m big on not immediately giving customers what they asked for, and instead asking the question “why” to learn what the real latent customer needs are. And for you internal analytics folks, remember your employees, vendors, etc. are your “customers” whether you think of them that way or not! Anyhow, … Read more

The Easiest Way to Simplify Your Product or Solution’s Design

By Brian T. O'Neill | April 25, 2018

Ok, you probably know this one, but let’s dig in a little farther. I recently started to explore using the TORBrowser when surfing on public wi-fi for more security (later finding out that using a VPN, and not TOR, is what will enable safer surfing). However, in the process of downloading and trying the TORBrowser … Read more

(8) invisible design problems that are business problems

By Brian T. O'Neill | April 19, 2018

Today’s insight was originally inspired by a newsletter I read from Stephen Anderson on designing for comprehension, and I felt like this could be expanded on for analytics practitioners and people working on data products. One of the recurring themes I hear from my clients is around the topic of general engagement (or lack thereof) … Read more

What internal analytics practitioners can learn from analytics “products” (like SAAS)

By Brian T. O'Neill | March 19, 2018

When I work on products that primarily exist to display analytics information, I find most of them fall into roughly four different levels of design maturity: The best analytics-driven products give actionable recommendations or predictions written in prose telling a user what to do based on data.  They are careful about the quantity and design of the … Read more

My reactions to the Chief Data Officer, Fall 2017 conference summary

By Brian T. O'Neill | January 21, 2018

I ran into a an article about the Chief Data & Analytics Officer, Fall conference that summarized some of the key takeaways at the previous year’s conference. One paragraph in the article stuck out to me: … The Great Dilemma – Product vs Project vs Capability Analytics Approaches Although not one of these approaches will provide a … Read more

How can you possibly design your service effectively without these?

By Brian T. O'Neill | December 21, 2017

I’m working with a large, household-name technology company right now on a large project, and they struggle with one of the same things so many of my clients struggle with. Today’s topic is articulating use cases and goals in an effective manner that allows your design and development to proceed with clarity and accountability. If … Read more

Reader questions answered: “what are your top concerns designing for analytics?”

By Brian T. O'Neill | November 21, 2017

Today I want to respond to a reader who answered a previous email I sent you all about your top concerns designing for analytics. Here’s Évans’ email: +++++ In analytics, it’s not like a CRUD [Create-Read-Update-Delete] with a simple wizard-like workflow (Input – Validate – Save). It’s kinda hard to keep the user focused when there are … Read more

UI Review: Next Big Sound (Music Analytics) – Part 1

By Brian T. O'Neill | September 21, 2017

Today I got an interesting anomaly email from a service I use called Next Big Sound. Actually, I don’t use the service too much, but it crosses two of my interests: music and analytics. Next Big Sound aggregates music playback data from various music providers (Spotify, Pandora, etc) and also, apparently, tries to correlate changes … Read more