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Data is Useless

With the explosion of big data, companies are stockpiling data left and right as if a data drought were around the corner.

Without appropriate actions and processes, data is useless.

Data Explosion

Eric Schmidt said in 2010 that every 2 days we generate as much information as we did from the beginning of civilization until 2003. Now ask yourself: if data is inherently valuable, have you seen your business exploding exponentially in growth and revenue?

Granted, it is a facetious question. Even so, the rush towards acquiring the latest non-relational database and the associated “data-driven” applications suggests differently. Well then, where’s the value in these tools?

While companies are up to their eyeballs in data, unless this data is backed up by insights, actions and changes to processes, all you’ve got are sky-high expectations and a technology stack filled with neologisms and portmanteaus. Couchbase, Redis, Riak, AllegroGraph, Sqoop, Flink, Neo4j, HBase, and more. Unless, of course, you are successful in synergistically integrating some big data scientists to leverage your real-time in-memory graph data structures to predictively analyze the complete digital exhaust ecosystem in your data swamps.

On the other hand, the right actions aligning your data to business goals is the only way to produce value.

Importance of Aligning Your Actions

For decades, enterprises purchased big-ticket databases, applications and software tools. But without a strategy in place, the business problems always remained. Today, the latest buzz words are data lakes, graph databases and “magic” machine learning systems. What’s the time-to-value on a data lake? What kind of return on investment are you getting from your graph relationships?

A single focus on these technologies is misguided if business processes stay static because actions are what transform the information into tangible business outcomes. In other words, acting to change business processes produces value. Data storage, data-driven applications, and integration produces more infrastructure.

To be sure, basing decisions on data and taking advantage of technologies play a role. Machines and automation make processing data easier. Nobody is saying that you should regress into processing by hand, one record at a time.

Look at it as a 3-pillar approach:

3 pillars: focus on value, align your actions, and build knowledge

In this approach, you:

  • Focus on the value or business outcomes that you are aiming for,
  • Build knowledge using reliable data coming from the foundational information infrastructure, and then
  • Align your actions and processes to derive value from this information.

Too often do we see the “actions” pillar missing – where there is no alignment between how data produces value.

Data + Action = Value

Real-World Example

Every day, the marketing and sales department in an audio equipment retailer struggle to serve the company’s customers because marketing and sales cannot see who their customers are and how they interact with their company. One day, they discover the data + action = value approach.

As a result, they abandon their idea to create another centralized data hub. Instead, they developed a strategy where in the first iteration of Master Data Management (MDM), they were able to expose and leverage their customer 360˚ data within the existing business processes. They put this system in the cloud because it was the approach that would give them the fastest time-to-value. This is how they built the knowledge pillar.

Once they integrated the systems, the customer support agent at the call center is able to look up all historical transactions and observations with any customer that calls with a problem. Because all interactions are tracked, the agent knows if the customer is a high-value customer or if the customer has requested many repairs on the same product, and can therefore tailor communications to achieve greater customer satisfaction. This step is the middle or “actions” pillar.

In other words, the agent is able to take action based on knowledge gleaned from data, including customer satisfaction surveys or loyalty enrolment programs. Aligning actions is the critical missing step to ensure the customer is happy, satisfied and comes back. This pillar is the secret sauce to achieving your coveted increase in retention, cross-sell, and upsell opportunities.

Today, these successes allowed the company to expand its use of the customer 360˚ data and other parts of the organization are now going to use the application for managing opt-in and compliance information to adapt processes for risk reduction. This is how the company arrived at the value pillar.

These kinds of results are within reach for you too. The longer data sits in your data lake/graph database, big-data-buzz-words-datastore, the less interesting and insightful it is. The idea of building “data-driven” applications on top of these technologies makes little sense.

To get value, you need the agility and trust of a consistent platform that lets you cleanse and map your data to your business outcomes by defining and aligning your actions. Infrastructure will help you get there. But people achieve results, not the machines, databases, or machine learning algorithms. Certainly not the stand-alone data lake.

Semarchy’s goal is to focus on prioritizing business outcomes and strategically taking actions, with the support of software solutions that will help companies achieve their goals the fastest. Don’t fall for the trap of buying tools and setting up committees. Make sure you align actions to get real results.

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