Advanced Analytics; Why You Need To Jump In Now

Tristan Sternson

Tristan Sternson is the managing director and founder of information management (IM) consulting firm, InfoReady. He has architected and led many large, complex, and leading edge IM and BI programs in Asia-Pacific and Europe. Tristan is also a pioneer of new technologies and approaches to IM, and is a regular panellist and presenter at many industry events, and contributed to various publications. Prior to InfoReady he was the local data management and architecture lead for Accenture.

Many marketers hear “advanced data analytics” and recoil. For many, data analytics is still perceived as a complex technology solution best left to the IT team (if attempted at all), rather than something that marketing executives need to properly understand.

Consequently, deep, rich analytics can be seen as difficult, expensive and offer a poor return on investment. And so these projects, which ultimately offer the best value to an organisation’s marketing initiatives, are sidelined as long as marketing shows no interest in the value it can bring to the organisation.

Advanced analytics, when utilised properly, can provide an invaluable competitive advantage to an organisation. The key is to understand the specific insights that an organisation is looking to achieve from its analytics strategy, start extracting the data immediately, and then use that data to inform future analytics initiatives.

Too often an organisation expects to understand everything from its first attempt at analytics; this isn’t going to happen with a marketing team starting out on its analytics journey. The most effective advanced analytics strategies roll from one campaign to the next. More simply put, an organisation that uses one analytics campaign to inform the next is going to be better positioned to realise a maximum return from their analytics strategy than one that expects to achieve deep insights from the push of the ‘go’ button.

The most successful advanced analytics projects are those that are ongoing. It won’t happen overnight, but if an organisation is able to adopt a “walk before you can run” approach to their analytics, they will quickly start to see a return on investment.

There are three easy steps that organisations can take to set themselves off on a journey towards advanced analytics;

1) Don’t wait, get in now

Because analytics seem complex a lot of organisations adopt a “wait and see” or prolonged evaluation process before beginning their investments into analytics solutions. But this is a flawed strategy, because analytics is in many ways a game of being first; he who pulls the trigger first gains the competitive advantage.

Consider the challenges that the retail industry has faced in competing with online websites. The effective use of data analytics could easily provide a competitive advantage against pure play online retailers by heightening customer engagement with the retail brand, and yet in 2013, a study found that big data is still five years away from maturity in the retail industry.

The most popular online retailers, such as Amazon, are making heavy use of advanced analytics right now, and we have all seen the success that Amazon has had against its bricks-and-mortar competitors.

Don’t wait for the perfect analytics solution, since it won’t exist. Each organisation is different and will have different data needs, and so there is a degree of trial and error involved in each analytics project that can only be realised through experimentation.

There is value in getting your team mining your data now, and using the insights gleaned from that first initiative will help to inform future analytics projects. Over time, a customised and powerful analytics solution can be built up that’s tailored to your organisation, and it will be far closer to the ‘perfect’ analytics solution than any of the proverbial off-the-shelf products.

2) Understand what you’re looking for

Organisations often don’t understand how valuable their data is, or just how much of it they already have sitting ripe for mining.

In many cases, we’ve been engaged with a client around analytics, and after going into their data we’ve discovered information that they didn’t realise they possessed. Their response has been “oh, that looks interesting,” and we’ve then been able to use those interesting bits of data to inform future analytics strategies.

This comes back to the first point; organisations that sit on their hands under the guise of evaluating advanced analytics solutions are not making use of what they have available to them now. That is a waste because in many cases an organisation with a strong understanding of its corporate strategy will understand precisely what it needs to achieve with its analytics strategy following an initial mining activity.

It’s also essential organisations don’t confuse reporting with analytics. All too often I’ve gone into an organisation that has presented me with a sales report and called it analytics. It’s not analytics unless it tells you what you need to do next.

Finally, the goal of any organisation running analytics programs should be to divorce the analytics from the IT team. Ideally, you want anyone in your business to be able to perform analytics related to their job function without support. Not only does this prevent bottlenecks from overstretched IT teams, it also allows an individual the immediacy that a good analytics program can provide as a competitive advantage.

3) Stay informed

There are several organisations out there doing truly spectacular things with data and analytics, and by keeping track of what other organisations and other industries are doing with data, you’ll find inspiration to make innovative use of data yourself.

Consider this: In the video game industry, organisations are using big data to gain deep insights into the way that their customers play their games, and then using that data to inform how they develop games in the future. A popular game can have as many as a million people online at any one time, all feeding data back to the game developer, which is a lot of data and demands some incredibly efficient analytics solutions. And yet many enterprises wouldn’t think to look at video games for insights into successful analytics.

As the example above shows, effective use of analytics can create a 1:1 relationship between a consumer and a company, where feedback and information from the customer can be leveraged to create better and more compelling products and services. Staying informed on what can actually be achieved by analytics, regardless of what industry is achieving advanced analytics, can help bring innovation and improved insights into your own organisation.

In 2014 customers expect the organisations that they are engaging with are making good use of their data to enhance their user experience. It’s essential companies, regardless of industry, are making those first steps towards advanced analytics now.

Tags: big data, data analytics, data-driven marketing

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