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Proceedings of The 20th World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI 2016)

Managing Analytics through Metaphor

Joseph M. Woodside
Department of Decision and Information Sciences, Stetson University
DeLand, FL, USA


Shahram Amiri
Department of Decision and Information Sciences, Stetson University
DeLand, FL, USA


Metaphors are a means to gain further insights into human Given Big Data, leaders cannot simply trust instinct as there
activity and the world, and through quantitative or qualitative may be patterns of information that are being overlooked and
metaphors a mechanism is created to allow individuals to must utilize analytics to offer decision support capabilities. In
understand abstract concepts. As no two things are exact, each addition given the global nature and complexity of
psychological process utilizes an illusion to create sameness communication for results and dissemination of information is
and every thought is at least in part a metaphor. When a challenging, unless it can be expressed in an easy to formulate
manager selects a metaphor they are also selecting a similar and interpret manner such as through metaphors [1-3].
knowledge set, and metaphors allows conceptual mappings
between domains as managers address similar business A common set of frequently used analytics metaphors include
problems. The analytics domain contains a number of decision trees, market basket analysis, neural networks, and
computational metaphors that managers must select and process genetic algorithms. Each algorithm uses a familiar set of
accurately, however most managers are not formally trained in universal concepts which create the metaphor, and allow better
these metaphors or accessing metaphorical management managerial understanding of the application. A decision tree is
processes steps. Furthermore there is an ongoing question of grown or divides a dataset until each division contains members
decision trust for using analytical methods vs. managerial of the same class. Splits or branches are used, as well as
instinct. This paper reviews a set of current analytics pruning to avoid overfitting. A branch is an outcome path and
metaphors, and recommends a managerial process for managing a leaf is the final detailed choice. Business applications of
analytics through metaphor. decision trees include patient and customer segmentation.
Association discovers the relationships between variables.
Keywords: Analytics, Metaphor, Decision Tree, Neural Market basket analysis is a form of association and as a
Network, Association Analysis, Genetic Algorithm business application discovers customer buying habits by
developing marketing for related products. A neural network is
1. INTRODUCTION an algorithm that emulates the human brain. The neural
network analyzes massive amounts of information to identify
Global management challenges are prompting the use of patterns and perform well within changing environments and
metaphors to address business complexity. In addition, 1 in 3 parallel processing. A business application included fraud
business leaders do not trust the information to make and detection. Genetic algorithms invoke evolution or survival-of-
communicate decisions. This complexity is being driven by the-fittest processes to identify increasingly optimal solutions.
information overload and the rise of Big Data. Big Data This method is best used to review solutions with millions of
reflects the volume, growth, and types of data, as well as the possibilities. An application includes business investment
tremendous opportunities available to unlock the potential decisions [4-5].
value. Big Data has expanded into every area of the global
economy with economic activity requiring data similar to Analytics capabilities can lead to managerial learning or
human capital. The growth in multimedia and mobile devices creation of new mental models. Mental models can include
has also created opportunities for tremendous amounts of routine use of known methods, or development of new
location and personal data. The digital universe is doubling in methods. These mental models can be conceptualized and
size every two years driven by all our connected devices. By developed through metaphors [6]. A managerial process for
2020 there will be as many digital bits as stars in the universe, managing analytics through metaphor contains three primary
and data generated annually is estimated at 44 trillion gigabytes steps: 1.) defining business problem or opportunity, 2.) identify
[1-3]. analytics metaphor solutions, 3.) developing mental model.
Managers that are better able to communicate and employ these
process steps will over time contribute to individual and

Proceedings of The 20th World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI 2016)

organizational learning leading to sustained competitive be used to evaluate the goodness of the branches or splits and
advantages [7]. regrow the tree iteratively as needed following each result.
A decision tree is grown or divides a dataset until each division
2. ORGANIZATIONAL METAPHORS contains members of the same class. Splits or branches are
used, as well as pruning to avoid overfitting. A branch is an
Metaphors are used commonly in business, and organizational outcome path and a leaf is the final detailed choice. Business
metaphors often drive the way organizations work and how the applications of decision trees include patient and customer
organizations make decisions. Typically metaphors must be segmentation [4-5].
designed with appropriate richness and with usage constrains,
such that the metaphors are able to be utilized across varying Market Basket
cultures and contexts. For example organizations may use a Association analytics is another popular analytics methodology
ship metaphor, bringing new employees "on board" and that identifies patterns in the relationships between data
"running a tight ship". The organizations also sail in specific variables and uses a market basket metaphor. This can be
directions as determined by their ³captain´ or CEO. However thought of as when a customer adds one product to their
this metaphor is losing favor due our turbulent business shopping basket or cart which other products are they likely to
environment with ever changing direction, it also limits add to their shopping basket or cart. The association rule data
underlying empowerment of employees. Organizations may use mining utilizes an algorithm to find these product relationships
sports as a metaphor, building a "team", "keeping the ball in or affinities. To assess the association analysis performance
play", and "winning against the competition" [1, 8]. common methods include using support, confidence, and lift.
Differing from decision drees these are not seeking to classify
Information can also be applied as a metaphor through the an output, and rather is an unsupervised method to discover
conduit metaphor, where ideas or information are objects, these patters. This information can be leveraged by a business
linguistic forms are containers for ideas, and communication is to promote products together or place products together in a
sending the information through the conduit. Between the physical or virtual location. Additional applications include
beginning and end common issues include the accuracy of cross-selling, store design, website design, promotions, and
transmitted information and how well do the symbols customer navigation [4-5].
demonstrate the desired meaning. While assumption may exist
that all information is provided, this is often not the case and Neural Networks
additional information must be made available through iterative Neural networks is an algorithm modeled after a human brain
questions and answers in a business setting. Information and metaphor of biological activity. In our brain neurons are
organizational knowledge may also take the metaphor of connected and learn over time from experience. Similar to our
harvesting, and collecting information from the field to brains, the neural network searches and processes massive
aggregate in storage silos or knowledge databases. Information amounts of data to identify outcomes in a changing
can also be considered as a raw resource metaphor that needs to environment and based on learning. Neural networks use a set
be extracted or mined, processed, and refined to become of inputs, hidden layers, and an output to classify and predict
valuable knowledge for decision making [9]. data. This is similar to brain activity where we take a set of
environmental inputs process largely in an unknown
3. ANALYTICS METAPHORS methodology, and output a result. These results are often
informed over time through experience and learning, in neural
Decision Trees networks these are referred to as weights of the variables and
Decision trees are one of the most frequently used analytics impact these may have on the output. Business applications
techniques and area based on machine learning classification include stock trading, fraud detection, customer relationship
and uses a living tree as a metaphor for interpretability and management, and engineering [4-5]
accessibility of results communication. From an analytics
standpoint the model is constructed from a set of inputs and Genetic Algorithms
output and the method is used to grow the tree until the grown Genetic algorithms are a supervised methodology that utilize
tree contains an equal dataset of members from the same class. evROXWLRQDU\ SURFHVVLQJ¶V LQYROYLQJ VHDUFK DQG RSWLPL]DWLRQ
As in nature, the tree contains branches with varying splits and The metaphor used for genetic algorithms is natural selection.
leaves. A branch contains the output of a classification of an Steps include mutating or varying the samples, selecting
input variable. The leaf on the end of the branch contains the samples, measuring samples with a fitness function, and
final selection for the pattern. From an algorithmic standpoint iteratively repeating until a fittest model or survival of the fittest
each branch and leaf can followed as a series of increasingly sample is found. This method is best used to review solutions
complex If-Then rules to navigate the tree structure. This initial with millions of possibilities. Examples of applications include
buildout of the tree is known as the growth phase, and the can business investment decisions, traveling salesman, and
be iteratively grown to select the best resulting tree. The transportation and telecommunications data routing. [10].
growth starts with a root or collection of all items in the dataset
and is grown to separate the dataset items into branches and 4. MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS
leaves. Once the tree is fully grown, the tree must be pruned.
Pruning in nature is used to control growth and maintain Managers must be able to easily communicate analytics
symmetry among the branches, similarly in a decision tree the methods and results to a wide variety of stakeholders. In
final tree is pruned to avoid overfitting the data and reduce the addition they must have a repeatable easy to follow process for
tree using a validation dataset to the best set of elements. From consistency and distribution for team training. A managerial
an analytic standpoint the Gini Index and information gain can process for managing analytics through metaphor includes three

Proceedings of The 20th World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI 2016)

primary steps: 1.) defining business problem or opportunity, 2.) Knowledge-based theory of the firm posits knowledge as a
identify analytics metaphor solutions, 3.) developing mental strategic firm resource, and a source of sustained competitive
model. advantage. Learning includes maintaining and building mental
models through new information. Individual and organizational
Define Business Problem or Opportunity learning is regulated by the usage of metaphors and managers
The first step of clearly defining the business problem or must ensure the criteria and foundations are in place to promote
opportunity is a critical part of the process, though many times the use of metaphors to lead to increased learning.
bypassed in favor of immediately staring the technical analytics
solution. However the definition allows the development of 5. REFERENCES
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