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November 3, 2020

Industry Leaders Kill Products Without a Care – and Your Business Can, Too

Stan Christiaens

(jamesteohart/Shutterstock)

Remember Google Fiber? It was a big deal. But last year Google announced plans to shut down the service in Louisville, Kentucky, and this year it revealed that Google Fiber will no longer offer TV service to new customers. Apple also has discontinued a bunch of products in recent years, and Samsung has, too.

Killing off products is nothing new. Some companies have made a habit of it.

These companies kill products, and then everybody’s angry about it. But the companies don’t seem to care. Do you know why? Because they use data to see what actions will yield the best outcomes for their businesses to take as next steps – they then act accordingly.

This makes sense, because if you as a business know as much as possible about your customers, your employees, your product and how well your service is running, you can always make the best decision. As Forrester explained in a recent study, data-centric businesses are 58% more likely to exceed revenue goals than organizations that are not data intelligent.

But, as the “The Business Impact of Data Intelligent Management” study found, effectively harnessing data requires a shift in investment, perspective, and priority.

More Than Just Technology

Let’s say a business has a Customer 360 initiative. The people involved in the project say “all we have to do is put the data in one place” in an effort to justify an investment in a data warehouse or a cloud data lake. Money then goes into moving, storing, and visualizing the data.

That’s not all necessarily bad. But we’ve been buying technology to store, move, and analyze data for decades. Yet the problem around lack of understanding and trusting data still exists.

(Wright-Studio/Shutterstock)

In the early data warehouse days, it would take a long time to get a data report. The market responded with the introduction of self-service business intelligence solutions. But there’s still a lot of investment that goes into storing, moving, and making a pretty picture out of data. And self-service has led to an even greater lack of trust in data, because now everybody can generate data reports, so you have thousands of them. Which ones can you trust?

Empowering Data-Focused Execs and Offices

Rather than putting all the money into technology, businesses need to dedicate more of their financial and other resources to organization, people and process.

The first things a board or top leadership team should consider doing on the organizational front are creating a data office and appointing a chief data officer (CDO). The data office can act as a SWAT team to get the organization going in the right direction. It can establish a data strategy and offer advice on how best to invest the company’s data dollars.

The CDO can serve as the change agent to turn the business into a data intelligent organization. Top leadership should be sure the CDO reports directly to the CEO. This sends a message that data is considered a strategic asset for the business and empowers the CDO to affect change.

Employee Education

Organizations also need to invest more in training so employees develop stronger data skills. And they should dedicate more time and effort to considering and correctly addressing processes.

(Maksim Kabakou/Shutterstock)

There’s a concept called Simpson’s paradox, applied in the context of COVID-19. It says that you cannot add up numbers coming from different places like various U.S. states or regions and make a decision – like whether or not to issue or extend stay-at-home orders – based on that. The problem with adding and averaging numbers from various locations is that data is counted differently in different places, so you’ll get the wrong decision.

I’m not saying we have to teach people about Simpson’s paradox. But we do have to make them aware of biases and how to address them. And we need to teach them basic data skills like how to properly ask questions before you start to look for data to answer those questions.

Building Trust and Strengthening Businesses

By upgrading their data skills, employees such as business analysts can do their jobs faster and more efficiently. They will also appreciate and use tools that are most valuable for the business.

Forrester’s study found that data intelligent organizations are 52% more likely to increase their spend on data management tools than non-data intelligent organizations. That’s a good thing, because if you’re a data intelligent company, you’re spending the money in the right places.

The research also found that data intelligent organizations enjoy an 8% advantage in improving customer trust. Let’s consider an example of how data intelligence maps to customer trust.

Imagine you contacted an organization with which you’ve done business, and it still doesn’t know who you are. You then tell the organization about an incident you had, and the company still can’t find any information about the event because it’s in another system.

This probably doesn’t engender confidence. Instead, you may be thinking: Why do I have to be on the phone for 30 minutes explaining this? Don’t you already know these things about me?

The value of having a data intelligent organization is clear. Becoming data intelligent saves money, builds employee engagement and customer trust, and opens new opportunities. Every organization should already be data intelligent, and those that aren’t should get busy.

You probably know it. Google certainly knows it. And your customers most definitely know it.

About the author: Stan Christiaens is the co-founder and CTO of Collibra.

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