We’ve talked at length in the past about how data is “the new oil” in terms of becoming a real goldmine of valuable insight as well as turning into something of a commodity. However, getting it right as a business isn’t exactly a walk in the park and becoming an inherently data-driven organisation takes dedication. For November’s webinar we decided to take on the subject of data and how CIOs can use it to make better business decisions.
Encouraging organisations to make more data-driven decisions may sound very obvious, but we’d invite you to ask yourself if your data is truly being used to the maximum. Even the most organised of businesses can find itself with siloed data that isn’t being shared with the relevant departments, because when there’s just so much to analyse – we can end up deprioritising the wrong things to fit it all in. This is when some of those opportunities can get overlooked.
We couldn’t think of anybody better to lead on this than Head of Data & Analytics at Appsbroker, Matt Penton. Matt is a longstanding client of ours who has worked with Appsbroker for many years, specialising in Google-only managed services and helping their customers to make their data work harder for them. His talent and expertise on how to spot opportunities within data and utilise it well has been an asset to every company he’s worked with over the last 20 years.
Matt kindly agreed to share some of his key insight from the last 12 months to give us a glimpse into where data is going and what organisations can do to harness the power of their data to take their business further in 2021.
Companies are dealing with more data than ever before, we’re talking hourly files with close to a billion rows of data. This is more information than most people know what to do with, and when it comes to processing and analysing data on this scale – you can run into all kinds of problems. A common issue with big data is processing speed and being able to act on said data in a timely manner.
Approaching big data needs to be entirely different to how you would manage a much smaller scale operation. Depending on the type of business you run, you may have periods where you’re dealing with significant amounts of data, but it may not be like that all the time. So trying to find a solution that works for both ends of the scale can be tough.
It’s situations like this where being agile is quite an important aspect of processing varying amounts of data. Matt referenced an example of a retail client who was seeing a phenomenal load of customer data coming through their web analytics during the Black Friday period – a taxing time for any retailer.
The solution for them was to create dynamic pipelines that expand to accommodate big demand and contract again when not in use, thus allowing the data to be visible and usable at a more consistent level during peak times.
Having worked with many clients who are currently utilising legacy data warehouses, Matt has witnessed first-hand the significant impact of being weighed down with these heavy license systems both financially and in terms of agility.
Many public sector entities for instance are now engaging in modernisation projects that involve a migration from data stores to the cloud. Matt highlights that this is in part down to the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the need to shut any back doors that could leave their systems vulnerable to cyber crime in addition to improving reporting.
From an agility perspective, having discs and data clusters on premises is very cumbersome and could slow down projects in a big way – not ideal during a time where speed is of the essence, particularly for the public sector. For those concerned about security, in some ways the cloud is actually more secure and is used the world over by banks and governments – Matt brings up encryption keys as a solid method of ensuring your data is locked down from prying eyes.
In terms of the financial gain that can be achieved just from migrating to the cloud, as an example: the instant saving for one of his clients is between £200,000 - £300,000 per month. So, does this mean your organisation should shift all your data to the cloud? Not necessarily, it may not be the right route for your business but it’s definitely something all organisations should seriously consider – even as a hybrid solution.
When you consider some of the problems your organisation may have at the moment, whether it’s the backlash of online complaints about your customer communication, creating an attribution model for suppliers or even working out your staffing costs – there is usually a way to make data the solution.
Matt shared some really useful examples from the last 12 months, one of which concerned a retail client that was getting a lot of negative feedback around delivery times and quality. The response from Matt and his team was to update the customer upon each delivery step to give them the touchpoints they needed to feel more in control of the situation. From a sales perspective it also gave the company extra opportunities to upsell.
Another great idea that data offered this retail client was to turn complaints about large items being posted or delivered into a discount scheme that encouraged in-store purchases on such items so that the delivery of said items was now the customer’s responsibility. With breakages during postage and returns to contend with, delivery on large items was becoming unprofitable in addition to causing operational headaches. The result was, of course, a significant drop in negative reviews and their NPS score improving greatly and new opportunities to upsell.
Making your data work harder for you usually requires breathing room to step back and look at the bigger picture. Matt stresses that coming to these sorts of conclusions actually tends to come from asking the really obvious questions in order to find that more complex data solution.
A common misconception is that data managers need to be gatekeepers who only relinquish control under exceptional circumstances. One of Matt’s really poignant insights was that data on its own has limited value, so it doesn’t make sense not to share data with stakeholders or partners where it serves you to do so.
The value of data is a big point to consider because once data is shared its value can increase tenfold. Not everybody is able to interpret raw data in this way, so investing some time and budget into creating digestible insights using machine learning that can be shared with other departments or even customers is an incredibly useful route to take.
AI and machine learning are huge assets that are going to be coming to the market in a big way in 2021. It is however important to ask whether or not machine learning in particular is going to be of use in your organisation and look at how it will add value where your data is concerned. An example of machine learning done right is by utilising tools like Cloud Vision API that can provide product teams with quick and easy website tags and data to get their products loaded onto the site quickly and in a way that marries up with the backend.
Matt shared another example of a real estate client that was looking to leverage its data to make more sales. In this instance, transferring user data into a legible, accessible format has not only been highly useful for their whole team but is actually benefitting the customer too. Now, using historic data around the best times to publish properties, their customers will receive an automatic prompt on the front end that suggests an optimum time to post their property to boost the chances of a sale.
Matt also adds that the coronavirus lockdown and the remote access to business intelligence data that came with it has also turned out to be intrumental in understanding your organisation's performance. Those at critical trading conditions will have noticed a sharp increase in demand for technical skills as well as industry-specific knowledge - so anyone looking to empower their team in the long haul shouldn't turn a blind eye to specialist recruitment at this time.
Leveraging data to add this kind of value to your organisation and its end users can really set your business aside from the crowd and give you a competitive edge going into 2021.
We host digital webinars every month covering hot topics like data, cyber security, sales and procurement. If you’re interested in attending our webinars, or perhaps even leading one – get in touch with Robert Taylor for more information.