Data Driven Decisions

March 15, 2013

by Alexander Sennhauser

Only recently has the broader business world come to the conclusion that data should be at the heart of every business decision. In late 2012 an HBR blog post argued that “your C-suite needs a Chief Data Officer”. Looking at the Wikipedia page on the subject one can summarize that the first appearances of the role dates back to not more than 10 years. This underlines the point of VP and Gartner Fellow Mark Raskino that in information technology “competitive leaders are sometimes 15 years ahead of laggards”. However, not all is lost for businesses which are not data driven yet. Recent advances in technology and the availability of knowledge will allow laggards to catch up rather quickly to companies who are ahead of the game today.

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By looking at how information technology projects have been implemented in the past any Chief Data Officer (CDO) might fear that it will take at least a few years to fully implement any initiative which allows the business to make smarter decisions. After all IT projects do not have the best track record. Thus the pressing question is how do you as a CDO get quick results to show to your C-suite peers that your initiatives are worth while pursuing. Or to put it another way: How do you avoid that your projects turn into black holes? Because after all it is all about improving your decision making process and not about technology.

Let me provide some of the insights that we as a team learned while implementing many projects and initiatives. I would also like to offer you an idea for a first project that enables your business teams to do data driven decisions today.

Knowingly doing the wrong thing

It is absolutely key to any project’s success that actions are carried out with good intentions. It takes time for great teams to form. But it only happens if you trust individual project members and provide them with the right tools to excel at what they do.

Failing to capture the relevant data

Failure can often be avoided by looking at data and basing your decision on hard facts. How many people are seeing a particular web site landing page? Which users are using our platform the most and what features are they using? When did the slow query response times on our platform first appear? Capturing and visualizing the right data is absolutely key for decision making. In today’s complex environments simply trusting your gut feeling is not good enough.

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Prioritizing research over experience

Iteratively working on prototypes often shows in which direction a project should go. Experience suggests that for complex problems no single team member has seen the complete solution before. Only a concentrated team effort supported by quick iterations can lead to the optimal solution.

So what is the take-away point for you as a Chief Data Officer? How do you get a quick win for a project that really sounds like a lot of effort to implement? Enter the world of customer relationship management (CRM) systems and sales intelligence tools.

For a company it is absolutely key to use a CRM system. Such technologies enable you to drive greater sales and customer service productivity, improve the effectiveness of marketing efforts, and reduce customer support-related costs. For individual sales people it is essential to gather the right insights about people they are approaching. The better they are prepared for their calls and meetings the higher is their success rate. By using Squirro you can capture the relevant content for any person or organisation that is stored in your customer relationship management system. These hard facts can then help you determine who to contact, when and what to talk about. After all you should base your decisions on data.

In addition, one of the benefits of Software as a Service (SaaS) products is the immediate availability. At Squirro we take it one step further and allow you to test drive our platform’s capabilities without the need to fully integrate into your CRM system. Integrations show to be a lengthy process for some companies. Simply export a few records from your CRM system to an Excel file and upload it to Squirro. Iterating quickly on a prototype like that will allow you to make a stronger statement towards your C-level peers to get their support for your CRM and sales intelligence initiatives.