Archive for October, 2017

Who’s using data in the best way?

Friday, October 13th, 2017

goldthisgirlcanWho is using big data in the best way?

The shortlist has been published for the best use of big data for buying.  The Gold winner of the Media Week award 2017 in this category has just been announced.  The excellent shortlist demonstrates the range of applications for media buying:  reacting to the news; identifying snacking occasions; geo-targeting and colour matching, identification of lapsed exercisers.  MediaCom won by working with Spotify to target women with unused exercise playlists for Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign.

For every brand there are endless possibilities.  In every case there’s also a judgement to be made about the real return on marketing investment from precise targeting versus mass marketing.  Byron Sharp’s Ehrenberg Bass Laws of Growth should be consulted.  Due diligence must be done on costs and consequences for the brand.

Outside of media buying, who is getting the most out of their use of data?

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai’s declared objective is to transform the business from mobile first to AI first, making optimal use of algorithmic decision making.  They’ve just announced that their voice recognition software has been optimised to understand how children speak, thus perhaps bypassing generations who aren’t “voice friendly” ie don’t want to issue commands to their devices out loud.

Other businesses are (unsurprisingly) less further along the journey of making the most of data at scale.  In fact some aren’t even seeing any return on their investment in data.

In Newvantage Partners’ Big Data Executive Survey most businesses who are investing in big data are seeing some return, but are a long way from either transforming the business or establishing a true data driven culture.

The survey, published in October’s HBR, covers c-suite executives at Fortune 1000 companies.  On a positive note, this is the first time since the survey began in 2012 that nearly half the respondents are positive about any measurable results.  The big wins for those companies are in cutting costs.  In terms of the other ambitions from big data, the majority say that they either haven’t reaped any benefit from their efforts or haven’t even started yet.  Adding revenue?  67% answered negatively.  Establishing a data driven culture?  42% have started and not realised any value.  31% haven’t begun.  69% don’t think they’ve speeded up any current practices through data.

The reason for detailing the results is not to provide comfort for those people who are big data haters.  Yes, you are right to think that big data does not provide the immediate answer to every question. However the gulf between companies like Google who are built on data and those who aren’t gives clear advantages to the former.

On a positive note, despite the time it is taking for the full value of big data projects to be realised, 81% of respondents thought that the projects they worked on were a success.

And, cutting costs aside, the second most positive outcome is finding new innovation avenues.

Big data will transform our businesses.  We can and should set targets, goals and a clear vision for what success will look like and where innovation will deliver most value.  All transformation requires flexibility to be built into the process.  What looks like one obvious direction might require a pivot to deliver true value in the end.  Also of course, expecting a fully-fledged benefit before the full nature of the outcomes are clear is a fool’s errand.  Even where progress seems slow and complex, it is crucial not to lose focus on transformation and jettison advantage.


Want to boost your bottom line?

Friday, October 6th, 2017

John Amaechi OBE, Psychologist-2282

Want a real competitive advantage?

New McKinsey research, published in the FT, reinforces earlier assumptions about the importance of diversity and calculates that the gains can be even greater than previous stats.

Simply put, companies run by diverse teams perform better.  McKinsey have analysed gender diversity at exec level across 754 companies across the globe.

Companies in the top quartile are 22% more likely to outperform the national industry average than bottom quartile companies in terms of profitability (ebit) or return on equity.

22% is substantial.  But that’s the conservative figure.  Using “economic profit” (ie the company’s ability to create value in excess of weighted cost of capital) the difference between top and bottom quartiles is 67%.

How do you deliver diversity according to McKinsey?

–      A ceo who is committed publically and internally to improving diversity with a tailored strategy for the business

–      More women in executive positions

–      Diversity goals as part of the business strategy and value chain

It is a year since we published “The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business”.  Kathryn Jacob and I have done over 60 talks about the book.  It’s clear that despite the economic benefits of diversity at senior levels many sectors still haven’t managed to deliver the conditions or the outcomes that are needed.  Many businesses are working towards this, and making great strides, but there is more to be done.

Rhetoric about diversity, an awayday, a spoken commitment are not enough.

At the FT Women on Top conference last month psychologist John Amaechi introduced the concept of “plausible deniability” as a crucial factor in holding back real change.

He thinks that this a core reason that things stay the same.  Without diagnosing this in an organisation, calling it out and dealing with it, there is a real danger that any amount of training will be in vain.  Plausible deniability is specifically a legal term.  At its most serious it is a term used for the ability of people to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organizational hierarchy because of a lack of evidence that can confirm their participation, even if they were personally involved in or at least willfully ignorant of the actions.

However on the broader spectrum of plausible deniability we may all have witnessed some version of it.  Certainly it came through in some of our investigations for the book.  People who witnessed behaviour that they could be expected to change but found it easier or politically expedient to ignore.

Some of the Glass Walls preventing talent from rising to the top of business that we spotted in our research have a whiff of this.  Team leaders who don’t spot that there is someone in the team who is unhappy with the tone of the banter that supposedly is crucial for bonding.  Keeping up the tradition that the Christmas outing is still to go to Spearmint Rhinos because everyone always has gone along with it.  Assuming that everyone will acquire the same ability to clamour for promotion when there is clear evidence that there is a gender divide.

Amaechi didn’t mince his words that this kind of behaviour needs to be eliminated.  Unconscious bias training might make the business feel like it is doing something but it is no more effective than taking antibiotics for a virus.  You’re taking some action certainly but it’s going to have absolutely no effect on the problem

Targets for diversity in senior management must be set, monitored, and delivered.  Why wouldn’t you if it is going to deliver this kind of competitive advantage?