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May 6


Question Mark Small

Not as in “who cares?”, but as in “why does it matter?”

A simple word but one with a role in helping organizations meet the rapidly evolving demands of today’s business.

Headlines and industry narrative herald the potential of bigger and bigger data sets and wax poetically about the latest, greatest business intelligence, CRM, analytics and automation software. But for many organizations, instead of improved work and increased value, there is growing frustration, unmet expectations and an overwhelming amount of noise. Why, if we have access to these amazing new technologies and stunning amounts of data, do we find so many in more pain than ever before? Why are so many organizations continuing to acquire more, add more and spend more, without seeing the results they envisioned and some continuing to fall further behind? Because technology and data do not solve anything, fix anything or accomplish anything. Data, no matter how big, can’t create value unless findings can be validated, shared, interpreted and acted upon. Expanded analytics capabilities won’t deliver value unless what is discovered can be translated to action. The potential available within any technology advancement will not be realized if the organization doesn’t rethink how they do things (and with whom) because they now have these enabling new tools.

Customers are rapidly reshaping and resetting their expectations for the organizations with whom they do business and their competitive landscape changes almost daily. The way things have always been done, no matter how effective it once was, will no longer be enough.

Everything about the way organizations plan, market and remain competitive is in the midst of seismic change. Organizations, built up in the 80s and 90s with top-down, siloed and risk-averse decision-making, are now being tasked to be staffed with critical thinkers who are comfortable interpreting data, collaborating across departments and making big and little decisions every single day. Organizations that could once rely on batch and blast communications through a few distinct, static and measured channels must now plan and implement integrated, built around the customer communications and ensure they are available in a continuously growing number of ways. Organizations with legacy data and technology infrastructures must now integrate disparate data sets, handle an exponential growth of all types of data, stay ahead of a new world of data security and integrity and put data to work in new and meaningful ways for the organization and for the customer. Organizations, built around their products, which once relied on reach, distribution, scale and iterative innovation for their growth, must now drive growth through customer-inspired transformative innovation, agile and responsive development, and segmentation and personalization. New technologies, new positions and piles of data are not enough. Organizations must change the way they work. Actually organizations don’t work or change, but the people within them do.

The same people who have largely spent their entire careers being trained, rewarded and motivated to make the way things have always been done better, more efficient and more productive. The same people who succeeded in school and at work by following rules, not making mistakes and staying in their lanes. The same people who up until this point have largely not been asked or trained or rewarded for being critical thinkers, for taking risks and challenging accepted thinking. It is these people, susceptible to cognitive barriers and biases, who must now interpret data, connect the dots, create new ways to measure performance and translate insights into action. It is these people who up until this point lived in silos who are now being asked to create new relationships, envision new paths and forge new processes. It is these people, who are accepting of change as long as it doesn’t affect them, that are now being asked to change everything.

Therefore, before chasing more new technology, although additional technology will most assuredly be necessary. Before talking about new approaches to data, although a new approach to managing, integrating and working with data will be required. Before gathering more customer insight, although growing and nurturing a customer competency will be of significant importance. Before designing any more reports, although driving expanded insights, metrics and tracking will be a continuous and iterative need. Before chasing any new data sets (of any size) inside or outside the organization, although this too will be a continuous and iterative requirement. Before changing organizational structures, creating new reward systems, establishing new processes and filling new positions, although this will be part of the journey. Before all of that, start at the foundation. Start with fostering and facilitating critical thinking, improved decision-making and comfort with risk-taking and driving change. Start with the people.

Which brings us back to “so?” As in “why does it matter?”

A little word, but one with potential to change perspectives. Add “so…?” to the beginning and end of conversations to connect the plans, actions and recommendations back to their purpose and ultimately the goals. How is the information, action, or plan going to help an organization better connect with their customers or more efficiently approach their business? It may be interesting, exciting or headline making, but how does it ultimately matter? The new segmentation study doesn’t matter unless it can inform and improve future actions. Journey mapping doesn’t matter unless the organization can understand how to use, feed and apply the outputs. The reporting and analytics available within the new business intelligence software doesn’t matter unless the organization has a tight rein on its data, knows what to do with the insights and can shift and respond to the information. The insights and learning coming out of new data capabilities don’t matter if the rest of the organization aren’t aware of them. The customer list growth doesn’t matter unless it is the right audience and there is a meaningful way to turn communications and clicks into engagement and value. Obviously, all of these should matter but they require the right response and capabilities to ensure that they do.

No, fostering a critical thinking competency, improving decision making and preparing an organization for the work of the future isn’t as simple as adding “So..?” to conversations. Changing the way we work requires new thinking and capabilities around the people, organization, enabling technologies, data and the customer. Start with the people. And that might start simply with “so..?”

As in “why it matters.”

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