Did you know that a total of 97% of collected data is currently unused? Still, within two days we amass so much data that, if pressed on DVDs, they would cover Luxembourg. Amazing, right? What percentage of the collected data is actually being used in your institution?
Thanks to easy to use tools—such as Google Analytics—the hurdle to digitalize your business is no longer very high. Most companies by now have jumped on the bandwagon and have started analyzing their online presence. Countless PlugIns and pixels offer to provide you insights into your online customers and their behaviors that can potentially help you drive your revenue and adapt your product in a manner that was long not possible. It is possible to understand on what device an interaction takes place and at what time. Information on gender, age and location of a user is readily available, and displayed content can even be adapted to individual and personal parameters. Costs are low in comparison to other traditional marketing campaigns, and as a result even small businesses and start-ups can take advantage and flourish. On top of that, you can pinpoint your target customer and track the results much better than, for example, a print campaign would ever let you. Your advertising spend is aimed directly at your identified target group, and should expected results not be achieved, you can take action in real time.
It sounds too good to be true, right? Possibly, it is.
Customer data collected online can be incredibly useful but can also become a great threat and loss of opportunities if not handled correctly.
Easy implementation and low prices have led companies to use numerous tools that all collect different—and sometimes the same—data. However, there rarely is a greater strategy behind this collection or the usage. As a Project Manager in an IT environment, I often see similar data collected via different tools and lump sums of data not being used, as there is no plan, or simply no awareness that it actually exists in the system. On top of that, the sheer amount of information cannot be handled by marketing executives due to the unstructured format it is presented in. Making sense of data can be an art on its own, and Data Visualization Tools are often not available or not set-up for easy day-to-day use. Often there is nobody to own this matter within an organization or is willing to take responsibility. Further, what regularly lacks understanding is that the value does not just lie in the volume of the data but in the individual approach it allows you to take. However, the creation and monitoring of specific campaigns requires resources and expertise.
These masses of data are boon and bane alike: if you do not handle personal data correctly, you risk massive penalties—frankly speaking, this is a ticking time bomb. If you do handle your data correctly, it will provide priceless insights. The right information enables you to make your products even more customer-centric, resulting in a differentiation to competition and an increased conversion rate.
So, what does it mean to handle data correctly? And why do many businesses struggle to do so?
Historically, different departments have independently started to use different tools and interfaces in various data warehouses. There has rarely been a common IT roadmap, often no documentation, and personnel has changed along the line. The very key to start handling data correctly is to begin with the following questions:
What are the targets?
What data is really needed?
Why is it needed?
Who needs it?
Once each department has answered these questions you can assess how to obtain needed information, how to store it and how to make the right data available to the right people in the right format. Obsolete tools can be removed, unsecure data flows eliminated, and server space saved.
Sounds easy? It is not, of course. Deciding on the right data and tools within a large operation is a lengthy process, and resources are always scarce. There is never enough time, and money and priorities are elsewhere. From my experience, this is one of the biggest mistakes operations can make at this stage. Why?
Data security lacks are easily assessed by experts. It is cheap and quick. Resource can be found externally—know, that’s my day job, so that cannot be an excuse. The cost: well, either you raise your revenue, or you pay the fines—both options should lead you to investing in expert help now. Also, do you know how much you pay for the storage of a terabyte?
What are my key elements to successfully steer such a project?
Project Management: when working towards the goal of achieving high quality and secure data for our customers, the first essential step is to set up a proper project. An external project manager is of advantage here, as it is easier to address unwanted topics as an outsider and to bring together contacts from different areas without facing political issues. Also, I often see internal project managers who are asked to manage a full-time project with 30% of their time, or even less.
Keep the hurdles low: provide expert support, enable teams to define their goals, and assist them in understanding the opportunities and challenges individual data streams offer. Then deliver: teams should receive only the information they need, and in a format that is actually useful. If a proper Data Visualization System is available (Excel sheets are not the way to go here), we assist in defining dashboards or providing training so that teams can (and want to) set them up themselves.
Remember the 97% unused data? My personal goal is always to raise the percentage of data in use in an organization. Further, I am convinced this is a subject that is very relevant right now and will be many years to come. For me, the true fun begins when I manage to convince my clients of the importance of this mission and we manage to raise their revenue together.
Katharina Zech works for M2 Business Consulting GmbH, a leading Consultancy that delivers fresh ideas combined with extensive experience. They work for companies such as BMW, specializing in eGovernance and Project Management. If you want to find out more about Katharina and her projects, email firstname.lastname@example.org.