Data May Drive Your Business, But Who’s Really At The Wheel?

Jason Davis, CEO and co-founder, Simon Data

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Jason Davis, CEO and co-founder of Simon Data.

The 2020s are the decade of data. Two years in, we’ve seen unparalleled advancements, protections and conversations around data.

Data volumes have exploded 5,000% since the early 2010s. Last year alone, data scientist and data engineering roles grew by 37% and 33%, respectively. 

Still, there’s a massive disconnect between data investments and business outcomes. Only 30% of CEOs believe their analytics strategy aligns with their broader business strategy. And 90% of marketers report challenges in using data to deliver on business goals. 

How is it that despite growth in data infrastructure, data systems and data experts, businesses still struggle to see clear ROI?

The answer is: To truly tap into data, businesses need better enablement, access and workflows. 

Data exists, but businesses can’t use it

Today, there’s not enough focus on how data tools can integrate into core business functions, enabling stakeholders to access data and embed it into core business processes.

From an applications perspective, we’re living in a time before Google Maps. Recall a road trip that you may have taken with paper maps stored in your seat-back pocket. It was tedious to navigate, and the workflow was awful. If you were lucky enough to have a passenger, they’d study the maps as you’d chart your course, noting miles, exits and landmarks.

While the data was all there – every road was cataloged – the workflow required to get from point A to B was painstaking. Google Maps transformed the experience by using data to automate the process.

This is where we are today with data. Smart cartographers have built us great maps with mature tools. Yet the workflow to enable the right people to use them efficiently is lacking. Data is not used effectively to drive operations, and it’s not embedded in a way that drives agile and data-enabled workflows.

Data should be the engine, not the driver

To better serve business needs, data needs to become an enabler, seamlessly embedded into workflows and processes. Data must become the engine that powers the bus. But the passengers (business stakeholders, marketing, product and sales teams) need the keys to do more of the driving themselves.

There are two critical components to driving: The first is operating the controls and moving through the gears. The second is navigating toward your destination. Data should be at the center of both, with more empowered drivers at the wheel.

Data enablement can rev the engine

Take customer segmentation. To better understand last-minute travel, a marketer might ask, “Over the past 12 months, how many customers bought a nonstop round-trip flight with a Saturday night stay-over within 14 days of their departure?” The answer can reveal how and why customers are traveling, which may inform operations or marketing strategies.

Let’s ask a similar question more operationally: “What segment of customers exhibited this behavior, and what flights are available within the next two weeks relative to each customer’s location?” The results can drive direct marketing with precise targeting of customers, match them to available inventory and drive measurable business outcomes.

For many organizations, executing this process is time-consuming and laborious. But data-enabled processes provide seamless integration from data to end-business applications. And proper data-enablement allows for these processes to be deployed quickly and easily.

Marketers need to access their own customer data in an easy-to-use interface. This starts with the creation of real-time customer segments and syndicating them to all channels from advertising to on-site to email. It should then extend into all other marketing aspects that can benefit from data, including personalization and omnichannel coordination.

Proper data-enablement allows for these processes to be deployed quickly and easily.

Data reporting makes navigating easier

Once the bus is moving, data-driven feedback is essential to moving in the right strategic direction. This starts with reporting that provides fast feedback loops and identifies when a campaign is or isn’t working – and why. The key lies in fully integrated analytics. Every piece of data should imply an action that can be taken within a workflow. 

Once feedback loops are aligned, teams can iterate seamlessly and work nimbly. As capabilities advance, leveraging experimentation, auto optimizations and predictive capabilities can help automate testing and programmatic-forward movement.

As we enter 2022, organizations will find themselves under increasing pressure to use data to drive measurable business outcomes. This starts with asking whether your organization has the right systems in place to enable the right people to do the driving.

Follow Simon Data (@simon_data) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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