Daredevils of Data

  |  October 17, 2012   |  Comments

If you are an analyst and want to feel like you are pushing boundaries, what's the sort of company you would want to be working for?

Photo credit: © Red Bull Media House

Were you one of the 8 million? I was and it petrified me just looking at it. Watching the live stream on YouTube of action man Felix Baumgartner's jump from space on Sunday certainly put my afternoon trimming the garden hedge in perspective.

Being a daredevil and making things happen is not always easy in the world of data analysis, is it? We're generally reliant on technology, media agencies, internal politics, and other stakeholders to decide when to implement our "a-ha!" moments of insight. Sometimes we're not always the best at telling the stories to drive change.

So seeing a man of action perform amazing deeds can sometimes lead to a bit of soul searching of our role in the world. Maybe it's just the change in the weather! But maybe it's also because I've spent time with a ton of digital analysts in the past month at two events in the U.K. - #measurecamp and Econsultancy's JUMP. A common theme in discussions with analysts at the coalface was actually whether some of the companies we work for are ever going to make that leap and become data-driven organizations. Sometimes you can have all the skills and tools but not the opportunity to use them. Are our data insights going to be actioned or are some analysts forever going to be banging their heads against a brick wall?

Take a look at the brilliant ideas and advice on the ClickZ Analytics home page, including these articles from Kate Kaye, Andrew Edwards, Bryan Eisenberg, and Tim Nichols, just to pick a couple. A lot of companies would think you must be bonkers not to be delivering against these ideas already, but many analysts can only dream of the chance to try out ideas like these. Why is that? Generally it's down to organizations being useless at implementing data learnings or just not having rich enough data to use these tools well.

So if you are an analyst and want to feel like you are pushing boundaries, what's the sort of company you would want to be working for? Who will use your knowledge and give you opportunities? Who is ready for your skill sets? Here's a description of daredevil analytics companies that have both the data and infrastructure to deliver:

  • Your company is data rich and has many interactions with its customers (or if not sells very high-ticket-priced goods).
  • Your product is simple and it is targeted to a responsive customer base - think of companies like The FT and compare them to other newspaper groups that have a subscriber model that doesn't work and whose data is therefore a little less valuable.
  • The interaction between your product and the customer is reliant on data and can be tracked easily; for example, insurance companies like LV= in the U.K.
  • Your company has senior management who expect data to be made available to them and act on it. At companies like this is ingrained in the fabric of their businesses.
  • There are gurus in your company that will link the analytics team to the design of your product. Think of companies like Dell, Belron, Lovehoney, and JustGiving.
  • Your FD has bought into the knowledge that cost of ownership of analytics technology is significant. If they are planning next year's budget and including lines for analysts who will manage the funky tools, you've just bought a license that is a great start.
  • Your media agency is one that can't get away with old-school buying techniques and uses all the data available to them to track conversion or lifetime value.

So what to do if your company doesn't sound like the one above? You may want to take a view on how you can use your skills to make an impact in that company. Maybe it will just be more fun in a different company that knows what to do with you. Or maybe you have an opportunity - maybe you need to invest in the planning, dedication, and vision that drove Felix and his team to great heights and see if you can develop a long-term plan to transform your company. Felix's leap was five years in the planning remember. If not you, then who?

There's another way of looking at this of course. If you are a board director or a head of product or strategy and you feel you are not a data-driven company maybe you should start taking your analytics team and their capabilities a bit more seriously. I bet they have the numbers to prove to you that using data more effectively will drive profit. Maybe they could build you a record-breaking capsule that would make you seem like the daredevil.

Photo credit: © Red Bull Media House


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John D'Arcy

John D'Arcy is the Head of Numbers at Seren, a Foviance Group company. Seren is a U.K.-based consultancy that utilizes data analytics and user experience to help improve customer experience. John has helped clients measure and optimize their marketing communications for over 15 years across digital and traditional media. He's been able to utilize the modeling and statistical skills he learned in the offline world to bring a more rigorous approach to the digital analytics industry. John's team at Seren are certified professionals for a number of technologies including Google Analytics, Adobe-Omniture, and Webtrends.

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