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February 15, 2023

What is shadow analytics and why does it matter?

Wallace Chipidza wrote an award-winning research paper focused on a case study involving a merchandising company that buys products and sells them to retailers. For years, the business model was simple: To maximize profit, sell when retailers need the product most. (Think candy in the weeks before Halloween.)

The unit overseeing the transactions thought it could improve results by introducing analytics rather than relying on gut feelings or repetitive practices, but it decided to hide the new process from the IT department and handle its own analytics because … well, you know how pesky those IT folks can be.

In the end, the shadow analytics project stalled because—wait for it—the operations team realized it actually needed IT. The experts were brought in, and the project succeeded.

“IT cares about computing and algorithms and software, but we also care about people and how they interact with software,” Assistant Professor Wallace Chipidza says. “We understand the socio-technical dynamics of information systems. You need IT, even if the process takes longer—even if they say ‘No, you can’t have this data for privacy reasons.’ You have to find a way to work together.”

To learn more about Chipidza’s win: