Data. It's a wonderful thing.
It can make companies both more effective and more efficient, as the advocates of big data are constantly demonstrating.
Indeed, data lay behind Tesco's well-documented transformation back in the 90s, thanks to its Clubcard loyalty program.
But it wasn't the data itself that transformed Tesco. It was the insights into customer behavior that the data helped reveal, coupled with an unwavering determination to turn those insights into action.
So if the real value lies in the insights, how do you go about finding them?
A colleague of mine once told me that if you can romance the data, it will reveal to you wondrous insights. With the explosion of data in the last 3 years, that's a lot of romancing...
Now maybe I'm just cold-hearted, but I've found it more effective, to use a simple 5 step approach.
1) Immerse yourself.
Talk with customers, and listen to what they have to say. Observe them going about their lives. Analyze whatever data’s available on their behavior.
Talk and listen to frontline employees as well, so often they instinctively know what to look for.
The key is to immerse yourself in as many different types of data as you can.
2) Stop and reflect.
What are the stories emerging from everything you’ve seen, heard, or analyzed? I always try to triangulate, to uncover the connections between the different types of data. That’s where the stories normally lie.
3) Find the “why”.
What are the underlying motivations behind these stories. Here I’ve always found that confronting customers with their own behavior is the most powerful technique, to get at those insights.
4) Develop the “What if”.
From everything you’ve uncovered, what are the things that would create value for customers.
5) Test, and test again.
Do this with customers obviously, but also with frontline employees. And do it with enough scale to generate meaningful data.
This doesn't have to be a solitary pursuit. Indeed, it's generally better as a collaborative effort, bringing different perspectives to bear. And it makes for an excellent team-build.
And of course, the insights unearthed don't create value by themselves. They still have to be turned into action.
But without finding the insights in the first place, there's no action to take.
Romantic, perhaps not.
But what could be more worthwhile...?