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It’s cool and in demand to be a “data geek”

September 17, 2014

Lisa-Pratt-1I love to “be the data,” but only in small bytes. I’d much rather just make stuff up than have to prove it with data. Today, I’m pleased to introduce Lisa Pratt as your blogger of the day. This is the first of a series from Lisa on data analytics, but it’s not all geeky. She’s a storyteller, too! Lisa is the self-described “Senior Director of Marketing Measurement and Analytics at Kronos, responsible for delivering insight into how our strategies translate into brand awareness, quality leads, and revenue across our key industry and customer segments. Lisa has been at Kronos for 4½ years, but her entire 20+ year career has been spent analyzing large amounts of marketing and customer data to drive better business decisions.”

I have always been a math person. I steadfastly maintained throughout my days in high school, college and graduate school (twice) that I would rather do three hours of math problems than one hour of reading or writing. And I still feel that way. I look around my world and see all sorts of opportunities to leverage, what I call, personal analytics. For example, when an auction at my children’s elementary school fell short of its fundraising target, others just blamed the economy and hoped things would improve next year. I took a different approach and suggested that we analyze the items, where they appeared in the auction, and the prices that they sold for relative to their market value so the next year we could optimize the mix of physical goods, services, and experiences, live vs silent items, opening bid amounts, etc. Armed with this knowledge, we would get as much as we could within the economic conditions we were dealt. Others didn’t have the energy for this sort of post-mortem and if you have ever hosted a charity auction, you can understand their fatigue. But I thought that if we were going to put in all that effort to maximize our revenue, why not use any data we have to influence the outcome?

monkeysinthebackroomSince I look at all situations as solvable with some data, good analysis, and a solid story, it seemed only natural for me to go into marketing analysis as a career. What I didn’t realize as I was totally happy being knee deep is a stew of numbers, was that being a data geek was not cool. And, while Marketing was cool, marketing analysis was not. It ranked among actuarial and accounting on the hierarchy of being able to talk about your job at a party, even if you are frequently mistaken for Gisele, as I am ;-). At a previous employer, on a conference call someone referred to me and my team of analysts as “the monkey’s in the back room.” I quickly took my phone off mute and reminded them that I was on the phone. I did get a nice apology later, but it still stung. What I soon found out is that analysts and statisticians were just a little ahead of our time and we would get the last laugh once the transformation of business into a culture of numbers and measurement happened. Now, companies are realizing the power of their data so long as they have technology and people to unlock it’s meaning. And, guess what – they are listening intently to those same monkeys.

To whomever coined and publicized the term Big Data and Analytics, thank you! No one is happier about the lipstick that has been slapped on data analysis than data analysts and statisticians, like me. Suddenly, it is both cool and in demand to be a data geek.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2014 7:00 am

    Yes, doing our homework “upfront”, setting up methods to collect data, performing analysis, doing analysis we may have not thought of when setting up (and are now able to do “just because the data is there”), discovering interesting relationships / trends, and then if possible performing “what if” experiments to see effects of input changes is great fun. It’s much more efficient, and effective compared to the “by guess and by gosh” approach we get a nice feeling of satisfaction because most of the time it makes sense and produces favorable results. Note, the results can tell us “what to do” as well as “what not to do”.

    Marketing circa 2014 is a different world compared to just a short time ago. In the old days (i.e. ad’s in magazines / newspapers, radio, TV, billboards, etc.) there were few ways to measure response. One of the ways was to assign a unique 800 toll free number to each campaign so we could measure response. How stone age! Today, think of the data we collect and what we can do with it It’s truly a revolution!

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    • September 18, 2014 7:07 am

      Mark, thanks for reading and commenting. The new awareness of what data can do for an organization makes it an imperative to use it whenever presenting a business case for investment. And the payback doesn’t always have to be direct savings. It could be CSAT, NPS, lower customer churn, etc.

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      • September 18, 2014 8:21 am

        Here’s a related article that is an interesting read. When reading it, imagine how fatigue management (an area which Kronos is involved with) could be extended in such a way that the user interface is personal (on you, not shared). Technology platforms are becoming available where we can deploy apps to implement this sort of thing (i.e. think iWatch, vs. intouch). The marriage of personal UI with central intelligence (think wfc), could in theory gently “guide” the workforce. Think about this when reading the article and how behavior could be modified “on the fly” leading to positive results. Note, the personal UI is just that, a method / vehicle to interact. The intelligence is in the central system. Yes, it may seem far fetched think how technology advances you’ll find it’s not so far fetched.

        Here’s the URL: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/when-taking-a-break-could-mean-life-or-death/

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    • Lisa Pratt permalink
      September 18, 2014 9:49 am

      Mark, your observation about how marketing measurement has changed is spot on. I used to work for a major financial institution where we used unique 800 numbers and vanity URLs as our means of direct measurement (in addition to marketing mix modeling) until a high ranking executive saw one of the ads on TV and was horrified by how un-customer centric it was to make someone remember the 800 number or URL. Now, as more marketing has moved online, it is much easier to get useful data without burdening customers.

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