Sunday, 26 January 2014

Big data and digital transformation

More data does not equal the right data, and data alone does not equal insight” (Lisa Arthur)

Many businesses today find themselves overwhelmed by internal data, paralysed by internal silos, and undecided on how to make decisions to grow and differentiate. In Big Data Marketing, Lisa Arthur suggests a strategic road map for executives who want to clear the chaos and start driving competitive advantage.

What is interesting in this book is how the author links the success of marketing's activities to the need of reinterpreting internal communications. This requires to reinvent organisational processes, structures, roles and interactions. It also demands to rethink how technology and data are changing culture. Communications are led by a continuos stream of digital information, conducive of ongoing discovery and analysis. At the end of reading Big Data Marketing, you should feel more confident and aware of what to do to build a responsive organisation capable to condense big data into meaningful actions.

Data driven organisations

How should a company react to digital transformation? According to Arthur, organisations must respond by using, leveraging and applying data all across the organisation. They need to become data driven to lead relevant, real-time interactions.

“First, companies need to create more holistic views of their data. Then, they need to analise that information for actionable insight. Finally, they need to put the processes and tools in place that enable them to execute based on those insights,” write the author.

Starting with a vision

Every solid strategy starts with a clear vision, but unfortunately, too many companies choose to skip over the vision thing. Then, since these companies lack vision, technology – not strategy – becomes the driver, and that is a recipe for disaster. Technology is never the panacea. It's the enabler. That is why aligning behind a shared vision is critical. A shared vision paints the picture that the broader organisation need to support.”

Once the vision is established , it is time to work together to develop a broad and comprehensive plan, which according to Arthur should include: customer interaction strategy, analytics strategy, data strategy, organisational strategy and technology strategy.

The author strongly emphasises the need of “keep learning” within the whole process: “The journey will illuminate new questions and fresh ways of looking at strategies. As you uncover new data and trends, remind yourself that you don't know what you don't know, and be open to the discoveries and opportunities you encounter along the way. Big data insights may take time to emerge, and the process is continually evolving.”

Tear down internal silos

The walls separating departments are high and wide in many companies. Plan for an ongoing conversation. Think of transformation and innovation as marathon – not sprints.”

“The need for change agents to tear down silos has never been greater,” stresses Arthur. Organisations need to foster an environment of collaboration, coordination and connections. If the ultimate goal is to provide compelling services and experiences, companies need mechanisms that allow information sharing, division of labor, and decision making that occur easily across company boundaries. “It is imperative to activate teams and drive cross-functional initiatives that require them to break down silos across the broader organisation.”

An example is Teradata Applications. They established a cross-functional team, the Demand Gen Council, to enable various teams within sales and marketing to efficiently stay informed in all the department's initiatives. A biweekly conference call gathers team members from applications strategy, sales, marketing operations, marketing finance, field deployment, data, and media teams. During each meeting they work to align messaging strategy with execution and pitch, they prioritise overall campaign ideas, and they fine-tune the timing and logistics of executing initiatives. The sales department joins regularly to provide the input needed to prioritise program and to drive alignment based on what they see in the market. “While it may seem like this conference call could become unproductive, a strong leader, a tight agenda, and the clarity of each individual role tears down the silos,” writes Arthurs.

Untangle the data hairball

Data and actionable insights are quickly becoming the core of every company's competitive advantage. How to access the data and use it to be more effective? “Start with talent. You need someone on your team to help drive the data strategy. Make sure you bring together people who get it.” The team needs to be multileveled, reach deep into the organisation, across multiple departments and geographies. Also, everyone need to be willing to challenge the status quo.


In addition, the author suggests to have the right partnerships, data, models, and tools: identify the data requirements (be certain you understand what types of data you need); find the source of data you need (take inventory of what data exists and where. Make sure you look across the entire enterprise); use a combination of technologies to achieve a single source of verified data (e.g. big data analytics discovery platforms); consolidate, integrate and iterate the data to inform strategy and initiatives; and test, expand and evolve (measure and assess progress, test the data to ensure you have the right information).

Metrics

The next step is to prove that all the efforts are adding value to the business. So “make metrics your mantra,” writes the authors and “focus on results.” The C-suite won't be impressed with the number of website clicks, followers or 'likes'. Executives want results. They don't want to look at metrics for metrics' sake. So use metrics that demonstrate contribution to the company objectives.”

It is imperative to understand what metrics are really important for the specific organisation. Which ones help to drive true value? “What works for others may not work for your company.”

Arthur stresses the importance of keeping the vision always in sights, not get lost in data, and most importantly take action on the insight taken. Finally, “don't lose faith that each step along the way , from accessing new data that can improve measurement, to aligning groups around what to measure, is a victory.”

Integrated processes

A final consideration goes to 'process.' According to Arthur, as complexity increases, well-defined processes become necessary to align the appropriate people with the right activities. An interesting point she makes is that “processes are a way to simplify what doesn't differentiate your company, so you can then apply strategy to what does make you unique.”

There are many benefits of integrated processes highlighted in the book. These include improved agility, collaboration (data that has been aggregated and analised is easier to communicate and share), innovation, the ability of extracting the most relevant information from the constant deluge of big data, helping to develop benchmarks, and accountability.

Remember: you goal is to use big data insight to drive value. Read, listen, talk and network. Apply the best of what you learn to transform your own business and organisation.” - Lisa Arthur


What do you personally think of big data? Have you ever applied some of the principles described in Lisa Arthur's manual? Do you have any story to share on the subject? I would love to hear from you.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you were interested in further exploring social collaboration, enterprise analytics, tearing down silos, fostering better communications and driving innovation though social business, these themes will be featured at SMiLE London on 17th March – the conference on Social Media in the Large Enterprise – by simply-communicate.