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How Analytics Could Upset the Presidential Frontrunners

By Rob Enderle
Feb 1, 2016 5:00 AM PT
trump-clinton-presidential-campaigns-analytics

Given all the campaign drama between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, and between Trump and Fox News, there was little else on my mind when I started to write my column at the end of last week.

A few things really jumped out at me. One was how the also-rans really didn't understand how suicidal Trump's comments were about fans supporting him even if he shot someone in New York. Another was what Clinton's use of a nonauthorized BlackBerry revealed about what she really thought of the Obama administration.

Opponents jumped to the easy conclusions, but what they didn't grasp was that both candidates had come close to making campaign-ending admissions.

Since one of the highlighted problems with data analytics is drawing the wrong conclusions from data intentionally, I thought it would be interesting to explore some current events and showcase how politicians misused them.

I'll close with my product of the week: the Emme Core, the most advanced home heating and cooling solution on the market.

Understanding the Goal

In the midst of data-gathering efforts, folks often lose track of the goals they are trying to achieve, and they consequently spend a ton of money without making much progress. Jeb Bush is a showcase for this, spending millions and not moving the ball one measurable inch.

He actually sent video payers to deliver his pitch to voters, when the money would have been spent far more effectively on an effort to analyze what actually might get those people to vote for the guy.

That reminds me of a bid review I did years ago, when IBM won a massive email project that Microsoft had spent millions trying to capture. There were five sites, and all had to agree on a solution. Two were Notes fans, and three were nonaligned. The Microsoft team spent all their effort convincing the three nonaligned sites to go Microsoft.

Rockwell went Notes, because the two sites Microsoft didn't touch wouldn't move -- something that should have been determined on day one.

For those running against Trump, the goal has to be to separate him from his supporters -- not continue to pitch the folks who wouldn't vote for him anyway.

Trump recently said that his supporters would stick with him even if he pulled out a gun and shot someone on the streets of New York. His opponents jumped on the "gun" part, but that would have no impact on his supporters, because they know he really isn't going to shoot anyone.

However, he was saying, effectively, that his supporters were idiots, because what smart person would vote for an obvious murderer? Now, voting for someone who basically is calling you an idiot is far more problematic, and building on that would have been a better approach for Trump's opponents to achieve their desired results.

Why Is More Important Than What

Another example of shooting first and thinking later has to do with Hillary Clinton's email and BlackBerry. Unless formal criminal charges are brought, Clinton's supporters aren't going to be moved by the possibility that she might get charged as a result of having her own email server and BlackBerry.

However, she is running on a platform of "stay the course" and supporting the existing administration.

Clinton didn't have her own server and BlackBerry because she desperately wanted to pay for and support her own tech systems. It was because she didn't trust the government she was working for -- and that is inherently problematic, given the platform she's now running on.

Granted, after the Snowden releases, I doubt there are many who trust the U.S. government, but as secretary of state, Clinton was part of the problem, not part of the solution. At the very least, this makes her tacit support of President Obama appear disingenuous. Or, put more bluntly, she doesn't believe what she is saying.

Since there is massive distrust of the government anyway, the end result is that she can't be the person who fixes the problem. That's largely because she seems to be in denial that there is a problem, even though her personal actions showcase that she didn't trust the status quo she now supports. This is just twisted.

Often, understanding why individuals or companies do something is far more powerful than understanding what they did. When we focus on "the what" rather than "the why," the end result often is that instead of fixing the problem, we just fix the symptom -- and the problem reemerges.

That is one of the reasons we seem to burn through a lot of CEOs. We fire them because they didn't perform. At both Yahoo and HP, we've seen this repeatedly, but if we looked behind the problem at the "why," we'd typically find that the problem was inexperienced board members who didn't know enough either to make the proper selection or to provide the proper support for their CEO.

That's why turnaround efforts often fail -- because the core problems aren't understood and thus can't be corrected. The CEO churn then becomes just another unnecessary distraction.

Fox vs. Trump

Back to Trump. The week ended with an unnecessary battle between the leading Republican candidate and the news service most tightly connected to the Republican Party.

While Trump's tactic brought him a lot of free publicity, it likely will deny him critical support when he pivots to the general election, and it was one more distraction his campaign really didn't need. At the heart of the problem was that Fox forgot that from its perspective, the debates are about entertainment and ad revenue. More accurately, Fox reports the news -- it shouldn't be the news.

Fox needs Trump because he does a nice job of getting eyeballs on ads, which means he can have a positive impact on productivity. Trump needs Fox to offset MSNBC and increase his reach as the elections approach.

The relationship should be synergistic, not antagonistic, and if both sides realized that, they likely would put aside their differences. However, since neither currently sees the value in their relationship, both are willing to throw it away to respond in a way that's very different -- and in the grand scheme of things, insignificant.

If you understand "the why" of something, you are less likely to break it accidentally.

Wrapping Up: The Power of Analytics

In all cases, this is the potential power of analytics: If the right data is captured, managers who get the results always will make smart choices. That's because they'll know both the why and the what, which creates the foundation for a real fix. They'll deal not only with the symptoms of a problem, but also with the problem itself.

Analytics can be particularly effective in campaigns, and it continues to amaze me that neither side is showcasing any ability to do more than respond tactically to a challenge. That is why Clinton is falling off against Sanders, and Trump appears unbeatable. In battles that are all tactical, those who are best at thinking on their feet win.

What I find most fascinating is that the candidate who is most analytics-based hasn't taken the field yet -- and that is Michael Bloomberg. I expect that once this election is over, it will be a showcase of missed opportunities that analytics, properly used, might have prevented.

It's likely it also will showcase a lot of unintentional comedy we could have done without -- for example, how Jeb's spending could have paid to fix the Michigan water problem instead of doing absolutely nothing to improve his chances of getting elected.

Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

The Emme Core Home Environmental Management System is to the Nest thermostat what the Tesla P90D is to a good golf cart. It is far from cheap, but if you ever wanted a fully automated whole house integrated air conditioning and heat management system, the Emme is really the only thing you can find short of a full commercial system -- particularly if you need to retrofit.

Emme Core
Emme Core

It uses a Web-connected central computer connected to a host of sensors in a large number of thermostats to manage your air filtration, in-house air movement, the mix of outside and inside air to minimize power use, and full-on energy tracking and management.

It even monitors the weather to anticipate when you'll need heating or cooling, and in-house air humidity. It uses air bladders instead of mechanical dampers to ease retrofit installation and increase reliability. It retrofits on top of your existing system and gives you real-time performance and energy use metrics, as well as historical reports.

Basically, the end result is that the house becomes fully optimized and automatic. If there is a way to pull air from another room or from outside to save money, it automatically does that.

It is Web-connected, of course, and you can manage it from any connected device or the central controller. Also, it will integrate with hot water baseboards or radiant heat systems.

It isn't a cheap date, by far -- but if you can afford it, the result is pretty amazing. (I just got mine up and running last week.) Now, instead of enduring rooms that are too hot or too cold, I'm comfortable all over the house, and I know I'm not wasting power. As a result, the Emme Core is my product of the week.


Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends. You can connect with him on Google+.


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