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DATA – THE OIL FOR 21ST CENTURY BUSINESS

We’ve all heard the analogy and most agree, its big business, data.  Everywhere you look, businesses are being sold the benefits of being ‘data centric’ and as individuals, we are all becoming acutely aware of the value of our own data and the risks to us if businesses mis-use it.  Yet for many businesses, it remains a mystery and an untapped opportunity.

At a recent business networking event, we caught up with Jason Turner of Data2Action., an operational performance and privacy consultancy who specialise in helping businesses drive value from data. 

As a former director of Bloom Procurement Services and the BGL group, owners of brands such as ‘Compare the Market’, Jason Turner is very experienced in the commercial use of data and more importantly, how to turn this important asset into real value.

Here Jason gives his views on the importance of data to modern business and some simple steps organisations need to take to leverage the value from this asset.  

“The growth of data is nothing short of phenomenal.  The availability of data has exploded over the last decade and with every new application or software product, we create more and more.  In fact, it is estimated that over 90% of the worlds data has been created in the last 2 years alone yet despite this, 80% of business data is actually going unused’ explains Jason.  ‘However using data in its raw state provides few benefits, like oil, it’s the processing of data and using it effectively that provides businesses with unique opportunities. Research highlights that those businesses that put data at their heart ie are data centric and continually process the data available to them, are smarter, more innovative and more agile. In todays digital world, this processing activity provides insight and wisdom and combined with an effective data strategy, presents real and tangible benefits.’

When asked why businesses seem to be slow to embrace the benefits that data can bring, Jason is clear ‘Both in my career and also through Data2Action, we have worked with many businesses on their data journey and there are a number of reasons why they seem to be slow to embrace the benefits that data can bring:

  • Knowing where to start.  In our experience, most recognise that they have lots of data and the value this could bring but don’t know how to leverage or process it to achieve value. Businesses are constantly being bombarded with promotions offering the benefits of big data, digitisation and digital transformation but what does this all mean? In most cases this links back to the sale of technology which often promises much and delivers little, in fact, a significant proportion of ‘data projects’ actually fail to deliver. This, in turn, creates distrust and confusion around the subject.   
  • Heavy reliance on perception.  Perception is a tricky subject for most. Perceptions are emotion based and have their foundation in old facts and previous experiences.  Effectively we are using the past to shape our future and whilst perceptions definitely have a place in our decision making, this is often at the expense of actual data. The challenge is that in our digital environment, every single vertical is being disrupted and the need to move quickly to deal with change is now critical. Yet as leaders, are we challenging our own paradigms and personal biases and effectively using the data being presented to us to help identify the new requirements as the emerge and mature?
  • Speed and Agility. Speed and agility is a critical skill in todays marketplace.  It simply doesn’t matter how big your company is, if you can’t spot a changing market soon enough, then you are destined for trouble.  History is littered with high profile failures where the new appetites and desires of consumers where being missed by businesses who didn’t use data effectively to spot these emerging trends. In addition, whereas previously data used for management information was backwards looking ie what has happened, the advancements in technology and data science means that there are many tools out there designed to accurately predict what will happen.  This is a game changer for business leaders.
  • Regulation. Unfortunately, the recent changes to data protection and privacy regulations have served to confuse and concern businesses.  Rather than being a catalyst for driving trust and loyalty with your customers, personal data is being treated with concern.  The regulations were never intended to restrict business use of data rather ensure that they were demonstrating that they were being accountable for the proper use and care of this asset.

So what should business do if they want to leverage the benefits that data can bring? Jason explains ‘There are a couple of critical things that every business should look to exploit:

  • Create a data driven culture.  Like most things in business, it all starts with the leadership team developing a view of the future and supporting this with clear and tangible actions to drive cultural change. Without a vision and plan, you can spend an awful lot of time and money going nowhere fast.. Once you have are clear, it is imperative to engage and enthuse your teams to this vision so they can contribute and keep the journey energised.
  • Understand what data you have and what you need. Seems simple but its staggering the amount of businesses that simply don’t know what they collect and what they use.  Not only does this present a potential regulatory problem (if its personal data) but without the availability of pertinent and accurate data, businesses are back to relying on perception.  Simple tools such as user experience diagrams and operational process maps are invaluable at identifying what data is available and also whats required.  Once gathered, businesses can explore the relationships between data sets and thus create information and wisdom.  
  • Visualise it. There is no point having tonnes of meaningful data if you cant see what its telling you.  Data Visualisation tools and skills are vital at bringing the relationships and stories that data tells, to life.Visualisation helps inform and educate leaders and decision makers and timely visualisation can be used to empower change.
  • Above all, start small. In our experience, a big bang approach, rarely works.  Find a topic (increasing sales, increasing loyalty etc) and start there.  Create your vision, collect and identify data, fill any gaps, enthuse your teams and above all start to measure your progress through great visualisation.  There is an old saying management ‘you manage what you measure’ and this is still true. 

With data highlighted as the very foundation of any change program, its effective processing becomes vital.  The ability to recognise and process data effectively is a much a skill as it is a technological development and this all begins with a common denominator, Leadership.

Data2Action have a long pedigree of leading businesses through significant change.  Our team of friendly, knowledgeable and operational  practitioners can seamlessly support businesses with a wide range of services including: workshops and staff awareness training, full project management support, independent review of your processes, systems and plans.

Whether you want a friendly ‘sounding board’ or more detailed support, Data2Action can provide it

Contact details info@data2action.co.uk or ring 0333 202 6397

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Data2Action Blog

Everyone’s digitally transforming their businesses… aren’t they?


By Sarah Burns, Data2Action (Apr ’19)

We frequently get asked by clients to help with their ‘digital transformation’ programmes, sometimes at the outset as they work out exactly what such a programme could or should include and some, at the point their programme is deemed to have failed.

Many start out with a strong view that to achieve future success they must ‘transform digitally’ but when we dig a little deeper and ask exactly what they mean by this they struggle to give a direct answer. Some confuse digital transformation with digitalisation. Others feel they’ll be left behind if they don’t have digital technology in their business or they feel they need such a programme as ‘everyone else’ has one, haven’t they?

Well yes, that may be the case for both points and admittedly, ‘digital transformation’ does seem to be one of the current buzz words in business with benefits to business being widely reported.

However as we explain, it’s much more than just about new technology solutions and more about a whole business transformation, a complete programme of change geared around the organisation strategy and goals and which creates a fundamental new business model. To add further clarity, we explain the difference between digitalisation which is more akin to updating existing processes with a digital solution and digital transformation which is fundamentally doing something different.

Alarmingly, whilst many seem to be undertaking digital transformation programmes, a recent survey by Forester shows the majority (over two thirds) state they had failed to realise their business objectives. Only 16% in fact claim to have realised improved performance and more importantly, sustained improved performance.

So why might this be the case? Well, our experience shows many organisations approach digital transformation on mass and very often from an internal perspective. They implement new digital technology solutions that address an internal challenge, for example, to automate processes and cut costs, or because it’s the latest technology and it’s perceived to have worked for other businesses. That may well be the case however, all businesses are different, and its important to implement change that fits each business and more importantly is aligned to outcomes to improve either products or services for customers.

Taking a more external view such as a customer led approach, is much more likely to yield greater value. We’ve experienced situations where organisations have developed a new app for their customers or implemented an online chat solution into their service proposition. Both may well be game changing developments however this will only be the case if the solutions have been created from a customer (external) perspective. Just because you have new digital technology solutions available for your customers doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll automatically see any value and hence use the new solution as you expected.

Taking an external view will ensure your customer needs and experience are carefully thought through, before deciding what new technology is right to meet their needs. Taking this approach where customers are at the heart of the solution will result in greater usage, an improved customer experience and in turn improved business results.

So, if it’s about adopting an external view and truly understanding the needs of customers, how do you go about creating a digital transformation programme and what are the core components that will achieve your digital organisational strategy and goals?

From our experience, such a significant change programme must be created, led and supported by the Leadership team, but with input from employees and customers who hold vital insight into what is working now and what needs to change. This data and insight more often than not sits within your business. Do you currently measure your customers experience, or do you measure retention rates for example, if so, then this, amongst many other sources of data and insight, will lead you to understand what and how to transform, be it a change to a product or the service you provide.

Furthermore, creating a clear company communication plan that sets out the vision for the change will engender employee buy in and trust rather than fear and resentment. Hand in hand with communicating the vision is to develop a digitally savvy work force. This may mean upskilling current employees and/ or attracting new skills into the business. And finally, equipping your digitally savvy workforce with digitally enabled tools to do their jobs, and empowering them to think and work differently from more traditional methods, all of which will create a mindset and cultural change to achieve improved and sustained performance.

To find out more about how we can help with your digital transformation please contact us at info@data2action.co.uk

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Data2Action Blog

Directors beware – They are coming for you!

It maybe the season of goodwill but that hasn’t stopped the ICO making further changes to Privacy legislation that will pour more misery on Company Directors.

As of the 17th December, Directors will be personally liable for nuisance marketing activity and could be forced to pay up to £500,000. Under changes to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PeCR), the regulator is cracking down on Company’s who seek to avoid existing fines by winding up the Company in the face of regulatory scrutiny or monetary penalty and set up a new Co under a new name (so called ‘phoenixing’).  This change will hold Directors of Senior Officers more accountable moving forward and is hoped to further discourage poor practice.

To find out more:

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-pecr/what-are-pecr/