Hal’s Blog “Data Driven”
If I had a penny for every admonition heard or read to be driven by data, my financial cup would runneth over.
Like many such bromides, this one falls short when it comes to execution. Let’s start with the label. Do I really want data in the driver’s seat? What about instinct and insight that comes from lots of sources, not just charts and graphs relevant to my business? I much prefer a term I see creeping into common parlance: data influenced. I want to know when I am sailing with or against trends, patterns and other currents data depicts. I will keep my hand on the tiller, however.
Digging deeper, what kinds of data do I most want to be of influence? Increasingly, I want at a personal level the same kind of analytics now used so effectively by companies on and offline. Simply put, analytics give me information that is predictive. I keep in mind a conversation with Chuck Longfield who sold his company Target Analytics to Blackbaud. This company had a specialty in fund-raising and started with the questions that leaders of nonprofits actually asked. One example came from CEO’s of public television stations: What is the best way for me to spend about 30 minutes a day to raise more money? His data told him that the donors who had taken the time to advise the station of their move reflected the highest likelihood of increased giving. He suggested that station leaders phone two persons a day in this category personally and follow up appropriately. This highly targeted personal approach worked far better than other options for use of executive time.
To use analytics, you need to have questions like the Public Television leaders noted just above. Starting with answers to validate or even challenge current perceptions is not enough. Data starts much less in being definitive than in being curious.