what to do with my data

Big Data Services (A Sales Perspective)

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Elastic{ON} in San Francisco with some of my colleagues at Anchormen; if you are curious about our experience there, you can check out this article. One of the presentations gave me some insight which I recognized in my daily work as well, so I would like to thank Catherine Johnson, Director of Product @Elastic for that. Her presentation was my inspiration for this article.

Everybody working in sales for a company that offers data solutions has heard this comment: “I want to do something with my data!” And I think that a lot of us are also aware that without asking any additional questions, a lot of those companies start advising on the right way forward. But we all know the power of a well-placed question at the right time. It can be the difference between your project being an unprecedented success or an utter failure.

“I want to do something with my data…” Like what? “I don’t think we are collecting the right data, so we should collect more of it…” What is your goal?

As a consultant, this will not only give me a better understanding of what is your definition of “data” and “right data”, it will also force you (the client) to think about it yourself. I realize how tempting it is to use a consultancy organization and just let them pick your brain. But nine times out of ten, the real value comes from them making you think in the right direction. Once you figure out what is the meaning of data for your organization and why you should collect it, we can move on to answering another tough question: what will be the cost of collecting it?

When creating the business case, we are very eager to look at the actual costs which are involved. Think in terms of storage, tools, technology involved, hours needed etc. This, of course, is a key question for clients but have you ever wondered what will it cost you if you don’t use your data? In investment circles there is a term called “opportunity cost”, it refers to what you could have received, but you gave up, in order to pursue something else. Whenever you make a choice, the opportunity cost is there, sitting quietly in the corner and reminding you of what you could have had if you had chosen differently. It’s tempting to talk about the added value of collecting and using your data, but let’s be honest, most of the times it’s very difficult to quantify it.

Be aware that in each discussion you are comparing apples with oranges. Asking a lot of questions will remove any doubt that you might be talking about different things. And don’t forget talking to the business as well. IT as an initiator can be beneficial, but it always has to be aligned with the business goals. Having a beautiful IT-innovation environment has great benefits when you can tell this while looking for new personnel, but it won’t work if there are no business use cases that it can land on. What kind of opportunities are within your reach if you can use the data? And how much are you losing from not collecting this data today? Do you get a competitive advantage when you have these insights? Even if the answer is yes, it will be hard to determine its value upfront. Still, you need to take this into consideration. Think about what you want to do with the data today, but also consider how you will be using it in 1-2 years as well.

So, how will the data be used? Will it be used as a dashboard information where batch or near real-time is enough, or is it crucial information you need real-time? Will it be stored and used once a year or is it a crucial part of your daily business operations? What happens if the data is not available at the moment you need it? All these questions will give you a direction and some idea about what kind of tools and storage needs to be used.

I always suggest starting off with a workshop with all the right stakeholders aligned. Think about IT, legal (are we allowed to use this data), marketing and others. Starting strong gives a  momentum. In breakout sessions you can make a deep dive on IT / legal or marketing-specific issues. Make your business case not too large, but keep your start scalable. You don’t know where you will be in 5 years, but make sure your (technical) solution fits your current needs. IT is important, but the business stakeholders make it worthwhile investigating the usability of your case.

Do you want to talk about it more? Contact our team or visit our office for a cup of coffee.

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