From Big Data to Smart Data: Empower Your Teams

Research provided by the Economist Intelligence Unit, shows that 43% of executives in the U.S. and Europe believe “analytics” and “big data” will be the most important digital competencies at their companies over the next three years.

We come across statistics much like the above almost every day, and for good reason. Though the “big data” buzzword has been somewhat overused over the last couple of years, the reality is that the conversation around big data and analytics capabilities continually grows more crucial to brand and agency marketers. And yet, we just as commonly come across statistics like this:

A recent survey conducted by the Winterberry Group found that just 5% of marketers, publishers and marketing service providers are “extremely confident” that their internal teams have the right skills and expertise to support the company’s data-driven initiatives.

Despite the enthusiasm and industry-wide embrace of data and analytics, it’s also true that marketers from even the biggest, most sophisticated enterprise organizations have yet to reach their full data potential. Why? There are many reasons, some of which revolve around internal organizational barriers, limited budget or talent gaps – sometimes, it may be all three of those things at once. Through the challenges and attempts to innovate, organizations are beginning to see that the real shift to achieving value from data may require them to reinvent themselves from the inside out, and to leave legacy processes and systems behind. To move into the next era of data analysis, the analysis itself must translate to real performance objectives, tied back to an organization’s larger business needs – big data needs to become smart data in order to truly make an impact.

This is, by no means, some small task. But, there are steps organizations can take to work towards smarter data initiatives, many of which involve empowering your teams with the right tools and opportunities. We’ve highlighted some of these important ideas below:

  1. Begin to democratize the data chain:

According to Protiviti, 56% of companies report that “Interpretation, visualization and communication of results” are major inhibitors to analytics capabilities that lead to tangible business results. While a larger portion of the company might be aware that data is being aggregated, analyzed and implemented into strategy, it’s often true that not all have access to that data in a viewable or actionable format.

Now that more modern self-service data tools and data warehouses are enhancing employees’ data capabilities, expectations are also changing about the level to which they’re involved. It all lends truth to the fact that people want to feel empowered by data, and not just how it impacts their individual department or campaign, but the broader impact to the organization as a whole. The millennial workforce, in particular, has shown both increasing interest and aptitude for data and analytics-focused work. Giving more people the freedom to explore, manipulate and analyze data creates an environment where important trends can be more frequently revealed. When it comes to data – audience, CRM, performance, or otherwise – it should be at the fingertips of everyone who needs it.

  1. Don’t limit the advanced analytics to just the analysts:

Just as we might say the application of analytics and data-based decision making was relegated only to the largest companies or most sophisticated IT teams, today we can say that advanced analytics belong to everyone, not just the “analysts”. In fact, everyone needs to be thinking about themselves as a data scientist first, and a media planner, strategist, or campaign manager, or otherwise, second. Why? Employees need to understand campaigns and channel strategies through a data lens, and therefore, be able to tell a great data story. The conversation no longer revolves around “X customer took Y action”, but “why did X customer take a different action from Y customer, what makes X different from Y, and why does Z story compel one versus the other?” The answers to those questions reside in the data.

Understanding how to leverage data in an actionable way certainly doesn’t happen overnight. And that’s why company culture is really key in all of this. Organization leaders need to be asking themselves, how can we nurture and cultivate the next generation of data scientists? How do we offer them career paths that don’t just silo them in their own department’s data, but empower them to impact the organization as a whole?

  1. Utilize data to address big business objectives:

It was recently shared that 48% of the top 30 retailers in the U.S. have had a change in marketing leadership over the last 12 months. The high churn level leaves most wondering what exactly is happening. Organizations strive to be data-focused, and yet in many circumstances, they’re working with various data sources across different departments and marketing channels, each with their own set of objectives. But what’s wrong with that picture? Data is meant to be integrated in a way that tells a complete picture, which also means integrating teams. To address overarching business objectives, it might require teams to step outside their comfort zones (and their own individual practices) to understand the data impact on the whole.

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