Data without action is of ‘little value’

Organizations that are not data-driven risk ceding advantages like customer understanding and operational visibility to their competitors. Merely having data, however, is not enough.  

“Sitting on proprietary data gives organizations an advantage, but that alone isn’t enough until you have processes that integrate data into planning and commercial targets,” said Michael Frank, senior analyst of The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in a Sept. 2 webinar on data adaptability.  

“It’s like crude oil,” added Robert Wickham, vice president of strategy and growth for Asia Pacific and Japan of Tableau, a data visualization software company. “It has little value until you can refine, extract, and harness it into actionable insights.”   

According to Tableau’s Data Culture Playbook, data-leading companies see benefits like improvements in production time (41%), customer retention and acquisition (89%), and employee retention (45%).  

DEFINING DATA-DRIVEN  

To create a data-driven organization, understand first what “data-driven” for your organization means, according to panelists at an Aug. 11 webinar organized by the Internet Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP).   

“Understanding what a ‘data-driven organization’ means is the first hurdle to being a data driven organization,” said David R. Hardoon, senior adviser for data and artificial intelligence at UnionBank Philippines. “For me, it means asking questions that require data to be answered.”  

Change management also has to come into play, Mr. Hardoon added, especially if the data tells the opposite of what the company does. “The most successful data-driven organizations… every single one of them has resulted in change.” 

This July, UnionBank secured a digital banking license from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, becoming the first traditional bank in the Philippines to do so.  

FOSTERING A DATA CULTURE  

Companies can foster a data culture by making every discussion data-driven, said Crystal Gonzalez, co-founder and chief executive officer of Pick.A.Roo, a grocery, food, and shops delivery app.   

“Even if it’s a creative discussion, the tone and agenda have to start with numbers,” she told the audience of the Aug. 11 webinar. “One way to embed something in a culture is to [do something repeatedly].”  

There also has to be commitment from the top, Mr. Wickham said. In a meeting, for example, a CEO can demonstrate that commitment by using live data dashboards to aid in decision-making.  

According to the Data Culture Playbook, American lifestyle retailer Abercrombie & Fitch uses near real-time data to guide a quarterly alignment meeting among executives, business group leaders, and product teams. Leaders use the insights to map out goals, align on intent, and determine where they want to focus their efforts.  

 DEMOCRATIZING THE PROCESS  

Organizations should also ensure data is findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable by everyone.  

“I worked in multinationals where data is the only oil,” said Ashish Thomas, chief executive adviser of Summit Media Group, at the IMMAP-sponsored event. “Everyone was geared towards working with data.”  

“Make sure all people are comfortable about data, otherwise some parts of the organization will discuss data, whereas others won’t get it at all,” added Mr. Thomas.  

A way to make people comfortable with data is by gamifying their experience with it, which is exactly what JPMorgan Chase does. As shared in Tableau’s Data Culture Playbook, the multinational investment bank promotes data literacy by using a gamified structure with skill belts that guides people through different levels of data training.   

This democratization of data can extend to external stakeholders too, said Quiron Cunha, senior strategy director of fashion e-commerce platform Zalora. Information, he said, needs to support key partners.   

“In Zalora, we created an external data prototype that enables data sets to our brand partners, so they can have insights into [factors like] cancellation rates and customer behavior,” he said at the EIU event. “If data [just] sits in one department, it won’t make sense. It has to be spread across the organization.”  

PICKING THE RIGHT TOOLS  

Investing in technology is likewise an important piece of the data-driven puzzle, Mr. Thomas said, and the best tool depends on which part of the organization is looking at what data.  

“It depends on who the audience is and what the use case is,” he said. “There are so many data visualization tools out there. A lot are available at startup rates. If you use four or five, you’ll know what works for you.”  

Mr. Hardoon offered a word of caution on free tools: “A tool has to be aligned with what you want to achieve. A tool may be free, but you also need to factor in the blood, sweat, and tears of having to build [everything] from the ground up.” — Patricia B. Mirasol

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