Big data: the cornerstone of decision making

Big data: the cornerstone of decision making

A panel comprised of participants from diverse industries came together at CeBIT Australia 2017 to examine the social, political and technological impacts of data. Despite the differences in experiences and industries, several central ideas emerged from the discussions that give a sense of how Australia can better harness data in business and in government to create more efficient and dynamic businesses.

Data should be the cornerstone of decision making

Chief Executive Officer of ADMA Jodie Sangster understands the potential of a data-driven business, however she is seeing a nexus between its potential and businesses who are actually harnessing its current capabilities. She said, ‘We do a global study each year to see what’s happening in data, technology and marketing. Of the 3,000 companies surveyed each year, 90% say that they are making an investment in data technology. However, there is a disconnect between the data technology and using data to drive those business decisions.

A report came out that said that senior management and boards (70%) are still making decisions based on gut feel. There is a drive, but there are limitations in data-driven marketing based on the skillset and the technology.’

Sam Robertson also found this to be the case in his work as the Head of Innovation and Research Western Bulldogs Football Club. Even though Robertson can work with revealing and valuable data, he said that he had to establish trust, and gets some runs on the board with coaching staff who had traditionally relied ‘on gut instinct.’

‘We’ve seen the industry slowly move from being a coach-subjective focused industry to decisions based on data and analytics. Part of that is how to sell the message to the coach. At the same time, you have to acknowledge that this industry is a people-heavy industry and that gut and intuition are always going to play their part.’

Technology has driven the influx of data into sport. Any type of data is now available to us in real time. Sensors are the main source that we’ve seen in the last 10-15 years. We look at how players are doing physically, how what they are doing in training marries in competition. Which brings a good question: Why are there more injuries than ever before? (Hit harder, move quicker)

If Australia wants to derive the true value of its data, then it needs to ensure that its workforce have the skillset to address this. 

Andrew Johnson,Chief Executive Officer, Australian Computer Society, acknowledged that, ‘Australia is a large economy that punches above its weight in industries like agriculture. Data is providing a way that we could continue to propel ourselves forward.’

However, as Sangster warns, ‘if Australia wants to continue to do so [to punch above its weight] then we must invest in creating a workforce that have that understanding and have that skillset.’

A key part of cultivating this skillset is ensuring that businesses are promoting a culture that fosters innovation. Uber Director of Marketing Steve Brennen is well placed to elaborate on what makes an innovative culture. He suggests that, ‘Your team is thinking big, thinking 10 years out, creating an environment where your team aren’t afraid to fail and that they are constantly collaborating. That way you ensure that everyone is on the same page and that we learn from those who are a few pages ahead.’

Invest in data

The social, technological and political impacts of data could continue to unlock real insights for Australian businesses. However, if Australia wants to continue to be a thriving and healthy economy, it can’t just invest in data technology, but, as Sangster observes ‘companies need to think of their data as an asset. So many organisations want to jump onto the newest ways to wow our customers, but it’s not really useful, if your data isn’t up-to-date. The only resolution to that is to invest. Invest in keeping your data up-to-date, an investment, many companies are reluctant to make. Make data an asset on the budget sheet, assign it a value and flag it as a priority, to the company.’

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