As you listen to these types of questions, your goal is to nail down a specific problem with a specific answer. You want to narrow down the scope to something that your team can achieve, ideally something with a built-in measure for success. For example, here are a few specific problems that we could go solve:
- Find a model which predicts quarterly sales to within 5% no later than 30 days into the quarter.
- Given a title and description for a product, tell me a listing category which Amazon will, with at least 90% confidence, consider valid for this product.
- Determine the top three factors which most affect the number of years the first owner holds onto our mid-range sedan.
With a specific problem in mind, you can look for relevant data. Of course, you’ll probably need to modify the scope of this problem over time as you gather new information, but this gives you a starting point for success. Also, don’t expect something as clear-cut as the above early on; instead, people will hem and haw, not quite sure what they really want. You can take a fuzzy goal into data acquisition, but as you acquire data, you will want to work with the champion to focus down to a targeted and valuable problem.
Read on for several references to big sacks of cash. After becoming a manager, I’ve become much more attuned to the idea of receiving big sacks of cash.