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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

How Customers Drive BI and Analytics Innovation

The upcoming TDWI Executive Summit in San Diego will explore innovations in BI, analytics, and data management that are essential for achieving customer intelligence and better customer experiences.

Whether shopping online, perusing products in a mall, visiting the local car dealer, or using social media to recommend a product or service to a friend, all of these consumer activities today have one thing in common: they generate a ton of data.

The potential gain for businesses is enormous if they can turn that data into high-impact customer analytics. This makes customer-generated data and the development of rich customer analytics, if not the driving force behind innovation in our industry, certainly one that is at the forefront.

Customer-Centric Organizations

On top of the urgency to realize value from customer data, many organizations want to be "customer-centric." That is, their goal is to be smart about customer relationships, interests, and preferences and to prioritize continuous improvement and innovation in customer experiences.

Such firms are looking to business intelligence (BI), analytics, and platforms supporting big data, data warehousing, and customer data management to help them drive more informed decisions and actions in marketing, sales, service, e-commerce, and other customer-facing activities. Analytics insights help organizations improve customer experiences by streamlining operations and shaping development of products and services to delight customers.

Initially, the concept of being customer-centric seemed relevant only to companies in industries that had a high degree of consumer interaction and products or services involving high-touch relationships such as banking, retail, hospitality, and travel. Now, as we move further into "the experience economy" as some call it, customer-centricity will be critical for firms in nearly every industry, including those that concentrate on business-to-business (B2B) relationships.

This is in part because nearly all organizations -- B2B or business-to-consumer (B2C), public or private -- have a Web "front door" that is a portal for customer, partner, patient, and other relationships.

In the experience economy, transactions are just one part of the relationship; to quote B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, authors of The Experience Economy (Harvard Business Review Press, Updated 2011), "businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product -- the 'experience.'"

The Summit, Analytics, and Customer Experiences

I am excited about our upcoming TDWI Executive Summit , October 3-4 in San Diego, that will explore innovations in BI, analytics, and data management under the theme of "analytics and data strategies for high-value customer experiences." Our Summit cochair is Claudia Imhoff, Ph.D., president and founder of Intelligent Solutions, an industry leader well known to many readers both inside and outside the TDWI community.

It has been a pleasure to work with Claudia to develop the Summit program. She will be kicking off the Summit with a talk that directly addresses customer-centric data and analytics innovation: "Customer Analytics: Your Customers Are Talking to You. Are You Listening?"

The Summit will cover issues that are important for improving general analytics and data management but are essential for achieving customer intelligence and better customer experiences.

Organizational Innovation

In the excitement over what technologies can contribute to BI and analytics, it's easy to overlook the importance of addressing organizational requirements. These include setting a strategy and road map and building an analytics culture.

Organizations need to encourage development of analytics insights that challenge long-held assumptions in marketing, sales, and service functions. Quite often, this can lead to political battles and change management difficulties. However, if the organization is not open to making changes based on analytics and data science, the effort may not be worth it.

Claudia will be addressing organizational issues at the Summit as will Bill Schmarzo, CTO for the big data practice at EMC Global Services, and Joshua Burkhow, analytics evangelist and practice manager with BPM Northwest. Burkhow will offer guidance based on his experience leading projects at Nike, Siemens, MassMutual, and the US Marine Corps.

Once organizations arrive at their analytics insights, it takes courage to try something new to stimulate customer interest, with the objective of turning that interest into a sustainable and loyal relationship. We will have a great case study at the Summit by Chick-fil-A's Chinedu Ezeamuzie and Justin Winter about the launch of Chick-fil-A One!, a popular app and key part of a loyalty platform based on innovative data management and analytics.

BI, Analytics, and Communication

There's no magic behind analytics. Organizations that do not critique the results of analytics processes carefully and check data lineage could draw the wrong conclusions and make poor decisions that turn off customers.

The fearless Mark Madsen, president of Third Nature, will present "Beer, Diapers, and Correlation: A Tale of Ambiguity," that will offer sage advice about interpreting the results of analytics models, including those derived with "easy to use" self-service visual analytics tools.

Equally essential to the success of BI and analytics is communication, particularly for business groups which have domain expertise in areas such as marketing, sales, and service but not in the inner workings of analytics and data management. Amanda Gessert, associate director of business intelligence at Merkle, will present "What's Next for Business Intelligence? Storytelling."

Data storytelling is a hot concept; Amanda will provide guidance for doing more than just showing a chart. She will focus on how data scientists, business analysts, and business users can apply data visualization and storytelling techniques to communicate insights into customer behavior and inspire action driven by data.

Big Data for Business Insight

We are well into the age of big data, yet many organizations are still struggling to unearth the analytics "gold" from the volumes of data they are collecting in Hadoop data lakes and data warehouses. It's always instructive to hear how companies that are successful have made it happen, particularly for improving customer personalization and sharpening the focus of marketing campaigns.

Sridhar Paidi , senior product manager at eBay -- always an innovator in big data analytics -- will discuss his work in developing the company's "Customer DNA," a repository containing a record for every eBay user (that's over 65,000 data points). The repository supports eBay's analyst communities and the running of marketing campaigns. We will also hear other case studies about simplifying data pipelines for faster analytics and using big data to build multidimensional views of customers.

Finally, security is critical when working with customer data. Unfortunately, security is often an afterthought, especially in the rush to set up data lakes. In this age of cybersecurity threats, business and IT executives and managers need a strategy for how to recognize and handle threats. Scott Nelson, an expert in cybersecurity, will discuss best practices and security technology trends in his presentation, "Cybersecurity and Customer Data: Trends and Best Practices."

Delivering Value, Avoiding Pitfalls

Nearly all organizations need a strategy to derive and deliver actionable customer (or patient, or business partner) intelligence. New technologies for visual analytics and big data management and integration are bringing previously out-of-budget possibilities into reach for most organizations.

However, this does not mean the end of potential organizational, analytics, and data management pitfalls that can derail projects. I hope you can make it to San Diego for the Executive Summit and TDWI Conference to learn and network about BI, analytics, and data management innovations and how to apply them to improve customer experiences.

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