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Your data isn’t rubbish and has real business value…

What does “DATA” mean to you? 

For many, it’s the mundane and largely irrelevant by-product of day-to-day business operations; for others, it is a responsibility and burden which is time-consuming, problematic and costly to try and keep accurate and meet regulatory requirements; and then there’s those for whom it’s a hugely valuable asset upon which their business is based – unfortunately, these are often in the minority.

The reality is that every organisation can derive valuable new insight from their data that they might otherwise be ignoring.

Every website interaction, customer service telephone call taken, office turn-style or social media comment – are all laden with incredible amounts of data that, when utilised effectively, can deliver enormously useful insight into customer behaviour and attitudes.  Indeed, they’re likely to deliver insight in areas that you may not have even considered.

The fact that so many businesses and organisations fail to effectively identify the amount of useful data that they have and the value that can be derived from it, isn’t surprising but it is frustrating.

When the presence of data is recognised, it is too often viewed through a negative lens: how to fix it, store it, organise it or dispose of it.  Instead, it must be viewed for the limitless opportunities that it presents and the incredible value it can deliver.

Having amassed significant experience designing, building and managing data innovation labs, we’re in no doubt of the value and myriad of possibilities that data presents in driving business value.

Yet too often these opportunities are missed because of one - or more - core excuses that we see time and again.


Excuse 1 – The most prevalent excuse revolves around the belief “We have rubbish data”

That statement itself is ‘rubbish’.  When considered meaningfully, almost every snippet of data will have a value that makes it anything but worthless waste.

A long-standing customer utilising a customer service FAQ for the first time could indicate dissatisfaction; a drop in overall customer interaction with a particular online function will indicate ‘something’ should you choose to investigate further; whilst a customer who returns again and again to a particular product page would suggest they're interested, but something is holding them back from committing.  These are just the tip of the iceberg.  There’s value to be gained in tracking mouse behaviour on a particular webpage, in identifying ‘out of the ordinary’ transactions on a customer’s bank account – the list can go on… and on! 

Can these nuggets truly be worthless if they can drive greater understanding of your business and its customers?  Surely not!  It’s simply a case of extracting the data, cleaning it up, knowing what to look for, and then extracting the value that insight can yield!


Excuse 2 - Another common excuse stems from the belief that a business doesn’t have the “correct infrastructure or tools” and to invest in it would prove “prohibitively costly”

Countering this is relatively easy.  Simply, don’t start with the technology; instead, work out first what it is you want to do with your data.  Initiating a tech-focused spending spree when you’re still in the foothills of data progression is a recipe for disaster and yet, so many CIOs demonstrate surprise when their techie tools don’t deliver sufficient return on investment against what is a yet-to-be-agreed data strategy or corporate ambition of how they want to use their data.

Indeed, no organisation can truly know what infrastructure they require without having determined their business needs and how they intend to derive value from their data.  Many big-name solutions sold as a magic bullet all too often resemble other solutions on the market, and wider considerations regarding your technology ecosystem, vendor (over) reliance, skills and supportability also need to be actively considered. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution here – despite the clever marketing behind some solutions!

Organisations should also consider what they already have that can be effectively utilised as they embark on their data discovery journey.  An SQL database coupled with a decent laptop may not be considered cutting edge but can almost certainly be repurposed for analytical purposes; whilst datasets can be extracted from existing systems and presented in visually appealing ways thanks to simple, modern reporting tools.


Excuse 3 - “we don’t have the skills to drive value from our data”

Do organisations really know what skills are required to tackle their data effectively?  Often, they don’t!

Whilst it can be powerful to have a single owner - which for firms that can afford it will take the form of a Chief Data Officer - to define the strategic direction of the data effort, provide it with prominence at the top table, and avoid operational silos. However, it is vital that responsibility sits broadly across the entire organisation.

Across the business, product teams and functions need to be actively involved in identifying how existing corporate data could drive real value, and everyone needs to commit to capturing good data. However, beyond the business side of the house there are a range of more specific data skills including, but not limited to, data science, data engineering, data sourcing, visualisation and agile project management.

Most businesses will have some expertise, although typically residing in small pockets or silos being ineffectively utilised. Also, firms do need to be mindful of, is that these skills are increasingly in demand and when hiring in new talent, the best will need to be lured away from the data aware, such as social media firms and FinTech innovators. As a minimum to get then to join your business you will need to present a data ambitious culture,  appealing work environment and competitive career progression, key aspects often forgot.


Excuse 4 - Frustration with having already “spent so much on data and still not seen any value.”

The reality here is often that firms have not actually invested in deriving value from their data.  Instead, they’ve responded to regulatory requirements such as GDPR or BCBS239 which have necessitated improvements across data quality, processes and ownership, and because they’ve not utilised these as an opportunity to commence a specific data-centred project, they’ve witnessed no value-add.

When a business determines for itself what it wants data to uncover, it’s then that it’ll appreciate its value.


Excuse 5 - Businesses are simply “overwhelmed” by data-speak!

Let’s be honest, sophisticated talk of ‘big data’, ‘artificial intelligence’ and whatever the latest data buzzword may be, can be overwhelming.  The reality is less so.

Simple data use cases can be quick and cheap and can demonstrate significant value very quickly.  More importantly, they support a business to take that all-important first step in the right direction on their data journey.  Simple steps can develop business interest, ignite inspiration and form a solid foundation from which to grow that data journey.

If you’re an organisation that can admit to relying on one, or more, of these excuses but at the same time have a desire to derive valuable new insight from the data that you might not actually know you’ve got, then we’d urge you to get in touch. 



Comments: (1)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 30 March, 2022, 14:39Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Oil industry accepts many of these objections as genuine, as witnessed by the common practice in the industry of ignoring vast reserves of oil since the cost of extracting them is prohibitively high. Since Data is the new Oil, the same objections may also be accepted for Data.

David Royle

David Royle

Partner - Head of Retail and Commercial Banking


Member since

19 Mar 2021



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