It’s been 12 months since we travelled to the Hunter Valley for the 2014 Data Strategy Symposium and I’m looking forward to seeing the progress made in the past year. With those in attendance again being a representation of more digitally savvy corporate Australia; I’m interested to find out how much progress they have made, because unfortunately I haven’t seen much evidence of it in the general market. At this point, I would estimate that we’re two years behind traditional corporations in the US but four to five years behind Silicon Valley.
The data mindset: feedback loop
The only good data is the data that is acted upon. Being successful in riding the “data driven” wave is not about using all the data we have, but about adopting a very simple feedback mechanism. It’s about whether after doing something we bother to look back and ask “did it work or not, and why?” The level of sophistication of that analysis will vary massively between companies, but we should all at least make a commitment to take that first step.
Keep it simple
When it comes to getting somewhere with data, many companies are too busy making excuses to do something about it (something I’ve written about at length). One of the most common arguments offered is excessive complexity. I often hear, “There’s much data available so we simply don’t know where to start”.
There is one very easy way to fix this – don’t over-complicate it, and start anywhere. Pick any data set, and develop five insights, then translate those insights into action. Then look at the results, and repeat the cycle.
The challenge for organisations is to take the first step. Then be agile enough to take the next step and be comfortable with a series of small improvements rather than some magical silver bullet that will fix everything.
Big picture leaders needed
A lot of businesses will say, “No, we’re too busy doing our current work to tackle data or digital transformation.”
What they don’t understand is that by stopping, say, 20, 40, or 50% of what they’re doing for a couple of months, the world won’t end. And after this time they will actually be able to not only do more but also do it better.
To get to that point, we need leaders who can see the bigger picture. If you think about why some companies are surging ahead of others, it is because they have visionary leaders who told their teams, “Stop making excuses. This is how we’re going to start doing things. Now”.
A cultural change
I used to share Warren Buffett’s view that the single biggest determinant of the success of a company is its brand. I don’t anymore. I now firmly believe that the single biggest factor dictating whether a company will be successful is the culture of the organisation.
Too many companies have cultures driven by a fear of failure. A lot of times marketers know or suspect a campaign they ran probably didn’t make any money. They will sweep it under the carpet and make sure nobody mentions it again. That is the wrong attitude because the same mistake is then likely to be repeated again.
At last year’s Data Strategy Symposium, I spoke about embracing a test-and-learn culture. What I said then still stands today. Keep pushing to a point where 70% of tests fail. 20% will maintain your status quo ROI, and the last 10% will be where the magic happens, driving your results forward. We need to feel comfortable with this sort of failure because it’s an opportunity to improve and to keep moving.
On the cusp of change
While often I see more excuses than action, there is hope. The City of Melbourne’s utilisation of data around Melbourne Spring Fashion Week to enhance event experience and improve marketing effectiveness is an interesting case study, as is 7-Eleven’s efforts with in-store channels.
These examples show us that digital transformation is within our grasp. To get started, we need to make small improvements one step at a time. Figure out what we can do on Monday morning and do it.
It’s time to stop making excuses.