Data is Still the Buzz, & the Disappointment

For, what feels like, decades, the discussion about data has taken center stage in nearly every business sector. Big Data was the buzzword that virtually no one could stop talking about, and for good reason. The conversations around data, the challenges and the opportunities, as the phrase suggests, were big.

What many of us have learned is that no business is immune from seeking out data, and relying on it to enable important decision-making. Even in the world of sports, data rules. Take, for instance, the National Football League, where teams are starting to utilize data and numbers as their core source for on-field play calling. NBA teams are now realizing, as determined by the data, that taking more three-point attempts is statistically more efficient than mid-range two-pointers. Major League Baseball has determined that while they occur less, home runs are more productive to a team’s score than a series of singles.

Seeking data, and knowing its significance in the myriad business decisions we’re tasked with today, is not where the greatest challenges lie. Rather, they lie in all that happens in between gathering the data and applying it.

In Marketing, we use data as a way to know our customers – know what they’re thinking, feeling, what their preferences are – all to tailor the experiences and products we engage them with. It’s how we build Audiences, and in turn, scalable marketing strategies that address customer needs, and the overarching needs of a business. There are great intentions in these tactics, from all ends of the spectrum – advertiser, to technology platform. But the system is still, as greatly, flawed. Transparency into the how much, the why and the what of data is still in question. And as an industry, we need to start asking better questions.

With terabytes of data being added to the “world of information” every single day, there are, inevitably, very few businesses that can actually keep up with the speed and complexity at which new data forms. Not only are they struggling with how to extract, access, report and make data actionable, but businesses of all kinds also struggle with integrity of data, the fluidity of data, and most importantly, the lack of investment into updating their data infrastructure. Unlocking the real value of data requires a new era of talent across fields, and smarter technology than we ever thought possible. The balance of the two will be key.

Knowing the challenges, it’s not surprising that a recent Harvard Business Review survey of companies regarding the use of data around decisions and strategies, from several different sectors, showed these results:

  • 31% of companies have somewhat advanced data strategies.
  • 34% of companies have average data strategies
  • 21% of companies have below average data strategies.

The most discouraging reality from these numbers? 65% of businesses have no better than average data strategies, given the advantages of how data can transform a business, as better data creates better decisions, and better decisions creates better performance. Harnessing the real power of data, as the HBR survey points out, will still take real time, long-term commitment and immense focus. The investment behind data will increase as results continue to prove the case, and with solutions such as Data Lake architecture, economic efficiencies will be gained, and thus accessibility and usability will improve.

Data remains very much the buzz, but still, the disappointment. Hence, the opportunity arises.

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