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Top 7 takeaways from the 2015 Data Strategy Symposium

Top 7 takeaways

With three action-packed days of data strategy chat to reflect on, we’ve put together this cheat sheet of the top seven takeaways.

Top 7 takeaways

Get yourself a Data Czar

Chris Monk, Head of Region, APAC for Decoded asked us to think of data like money.

“Imagine if a big sack of cash came in the door and everyone either took some out or put some in, then passed it on to the next desk. Eventually it got to the accounts department and they just emptied it out,” he said.

Right now, many organisations are treating data exactly like this, palming Excel spreadsheets off to colleagues without any sort of audit trail. When you think of it like money, the reality hits home.

As Monk said: “You’ve got entire departments whose only job is to keep the audit trail of money so that you know where it’s come from. You have a chief financial officer. The idea of not having one is insane. You wouldn’t do it. Data should be the same.”

Turn’s Managing Director Asia-Pacific, Cindy Deng, used the term ‘Data Czar’ and it’s not far from the mark. Someone should be thinking about where your data has come from, whether it’s robust and what it can ultimately do for your business.

Closing the gap between online and offline

“In Australia we haven’t really cracked closing the online/offline loop as yet.” So says Google’s John Blood.

It’s obvious why tracking online marketing methods through to offline sales is considered something of a marketing Holy Grail; to be able to identify a consumer who clicked on a banner ad before going in-store to purchase will take conversion data to an all new level. But right now, it’s only a dream for most Australian organisations.

Blood noted that in the US, companies such as LiveRamp and Datalogix have been able to connect the two worlds but here in Australia, we’re lagging behind. Blood said: “That’s something we think about and it’s something we all need to think about, how we as an industry can proceed from here to be more cutting edge.”

Don’t get bogged down in measurement

“There are two types of things that we talk about when talking about analytics. One of them is measurement, and the other is insight. Those two things are often confused and they’re completely different.” That was James Robinson, Director of Analytics Innovation at The New York Times. Robinson urged us to think beyond measurement and seek challenging insights.

Yet, as he noted, insights can come with inbuilt fears. Often times insights are things we don’t know about our business and “people are afraid to admit they don’t know something”.

It’s easier to ask for numbers than insights but where will that get your organisation in the long run?

When somebody asks you for a dashboard, give them a model

Leading on from his previous point, Robinson spoke of working with reporters who struggled to understand the numbers provided by his team. He said: “They interpret them as if it was their salary. If you say, ‘Oh, the story got 20,000 visits’, they think to themselves, ‘Well I don’t know if I should earn $20,000 a year.’ If it had 131,000 visits, they’re like, ‘That’s a pretty good salary, right?’ And if it got over a million visits, that’s like ‘I’m a millionaire.’”

While the reporters equated the numbers with their income, other stakeholders simply asked, “is that good?” At The New York Times, there was a gap in understanding of hard numbers, especially in how they mapped user behaviour.

The solution, according to Robinson, was not to create a dashboard. Instead, his team provided a model to produce insights. In the case of The New York Times, modelling page views of stories from a particular event showed the sometimes disjointed editorial teams they would achieve better results by working together.

83% of marketers believe content will be programmatic by 2017

During his presentation on the meeting of two of the industry’s latest buzz terms, content marketing and programmatic, Richard Parker from Edge shared the statistic 83% of marketers believe content will be programmatic by 2017.

The relationship between content and programmatic raises many questions, the most contentious of which being whether programmatic will merely distribute content or have a hand in actually producing it.

While Parker concluded that “programmatic will be more efficient at informing and distributing creative than creating it”, the future for programmatic content marketing will be an interesting space to watch, particularly given the next point…

The next big thing is cognitive

According to IBM’s Brock Douglas, there are three stages in the digital transformation life cycle: data and insights, external data and the need to adapt and learn. Each organisation going through the process is at differing stages, but Douglas was keen to draw our attention to the final stage: adapt and learn. This is where cognitive comes into the equation. Think Watson, IBM’s supercomputer that took on the greatest competitors in the history of the game show Jeopardy – and won.

The brilliance of Watson, according to Douglas, isn’t a never ending library of facts the computer has on file; it’s the machine’s ability to reason, understand and learn. And this technology is coming to your competitors in the near future.

Douglas shared the example of CogniToys, described as “the next generation of internet-connected smart toys that learn and grow with your child”. Think toys that, like Watson, can reason, understand and learn.

Douglas said: “A question you often get asked at these conferences is who do you think your competitors are. They expect you to answer, ‘Uber’ and those types of examples. That’s not the answer anymore. It’s not who is your competitor, it’s what is the business model that’s going to disrupt your business? And the answer is cognitive. Cognitive is what will disrupt your business.”

Don’t procrastinate – do something now

“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,” event MC Kuba Tymula wrote in this piece ahead of the Data Strategy Symposium.

Across the three days, Tymula took every opportunity to reiterate the importance of taking the first step toward digital transformation, and the example most illustrative of his point came from 7-Eleven’s Stephen Eyears.

Eyears was charged with pulling together a digital strategy for the traditional bricks-and-mortar business and his first step was in-store digital displays. He said: “Our hypothesis is that digital displays can be a pivotal piece of technology bringing the online and the offline world together. It’s a piece of technology that will allow us to pull the data from the customer in the store, learn, and then go back and improve that experience with those customers.”

Eyears began with a trial in a handful of stores testing out different creative, different positions, different screens. He said: “For those people trying to do test and learn, and digital and data integration in a traditional firm, you will always have a lot of people ask, ‘Where’s your business case? Why are you spending so much money on these screens? Where’s the return on investment?’ My simple answer to that is, I don’t have a business case. That’s why I’m doing this.”  

Business case or no, taking the all-important first step is already paying off. Eyears said: “The results were so good. It was the first time I’ve ever had a conversation with a CEO and he said, ‘These results are so good, I don’t believe them.’”

Eyears attests, it’s a matter of doing one thing. “A very smart person told me, and it sunk in very quickly, ‘You just need to start.’”

As Tymula concluded at the end of day three, “Pick one thing you are going to do tomorrow and you will see it snowball into making a real difference.”

Mark Abay - Content Director, Ashton Media About Mark Abay - Content Director, Ashton Media
Mark is Content Director at Ashton Media. It's his job to create interesting and engaging conference programs that stretch the thinking of our attendees. Mark works closely with our industry advisors to ensure the conference content is aligned with the needs and interests of our audiences.