Too much data

tunnel

Scene 1. Weeknight, 7p: An urgent text from your boss, the divisional president, to you and the rest of her leadership team: “Sorry for the fire drill but I need every line on this F&A spreadsheet verified for the Board call tomorrow. Make sure it’s accurate and tied to a current initiative.”

The spreadsheet looks suspiciously like the one from last month’s fire drill. By 10p you’re nearly done when one of your peers breaks a formula and everyone needs to re-review. By midnight one of your peers throws up his hands “look, I have no idea if this is accurate, but it’s gonna have to do.”

Scene 2. Day 7, waiting for CRM admin to free up: You’re a business unit VP of Sales with shared central resources. The pressure is on to find new ways to cross-sell but the foundational reports are broken beyond your abilities to fix them. And the CRM admins are tied up fixing bad data on some project for the Board.

You can’t even do the work manually because you don’t know the baseline truth of the data. And you have to present tomorrow to a CEO who can’t hear about the how the sub-optimal digital infrastructure is affecting everyone’s ability to project and report with confidence in the data. CEO: “What. We have tons of data. Make this work.”

Scene 3. Monthly Ops Meeting, rinse, repeat: You’re leading the Partner ecosystem for the global CRM leader and yet everyone is pulling data out of the CRM and reporting in Google Sheets. You’re lucky if a month goes by that 1 of the 15 leaders involved doesn’t break the sheet and you’re not confident that the Google Sheets data gets pushed back in to the CRM appropriately.

20th Century Data & Systems Hangover

Come along with me while I, citing some of the smartest folks I know, look at how we got here, what it’s costing us, and some paths out.

“Right now your company has 21st century-enabled processes, mid-20th century management processes, all built atop 19th century management principles.”

Gary Hamel

Obsessed, Addled with Data

B2B organizations worldwide are drowning in a hurricane of sub-optimal data, making fast-paced, trustworthy decisions quite difficult. Year after year, current solutions can’t seem to solve for the challenge.

Our hearts are in the right place (yes data is critical) but our minds are addled with an obsession on quantity of data and a focus on more, more, more. We’re in the grips of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (a closed system can’t take on new energy, thus chaos only escalates) trying to cleanse data captured by legacy and siloed systems. We don’t know how to do that well and the data is only increasing which means we’re spending a ton of time on more and more mucky data and not getting material ROI from it.

As FiveTran covers in their study, The State of Data Management:            

“Companies are paying huge sums only to achieve bad outcomes. For all the time and money spent on data pipelines, data is still not fresh, leading to old and error-prone information that is costing companies money.”

Chris Gabriel, Sapphire Systems Chief Strategy Officer asks:

“Do you store data that your business doesn’t use? The chances are the answer is yes – between 60-80% of all data stored by companies is never used after initial creation.”

 🙄

Constellation Research VP Liz Miller doesn’t disagree:

“YES…B2B organizations are not just collecting too much data but they are then stockpiling it with some notion that someday…somehow…it will come in handy. There is the fear of letting go and the fear of not getting that ONE thing that might FINALLY unlock the secret to sales volume AND velocity.

 Until organizations subscribe to the belief that my colleague Steve Wilson tries to bang into everyone’s heads – namely that privacy is the ability to do more for the customer with the LEAST amount of data – then the race to the top of data mountain will continue.”

Zack Korman, CTO at CYBR notes:

“Too much of the wrong kind of data causes distractions. It can also be a red flag that there’s an issue with an organization’s culture. (editor’s note: agree) The fact that a team keeps pushing for more data, keeps asking all these new things before they ever did anything with the last data set is because they didn’t know what to do with it.”

Data Strategy & Architecture advisor, Carina Eikaas takes it a step further:

“You might have enough data to have 100 metrics in a dashboard. But, that doesn’t mean you should have 100 metrics in the dashboard. So what are you doing with the data that you’ve collected? How are you using it? If you’re putting out way too many metrics for people to look at and people to pay attention to, then you are losing focus on the important metrics you should be paying attention to.”

Always asking for more is leaking into our outside work lives as Federal price negotiator, who moonlights as a speech and debate coach, Rahul Guha says:

“I say this as someone who loves data, often with the very technically minded, they want to make an optimal decision based on data that would be expensive/impossible to collect and curate rather than make decisions to improve the status quo. We have to solve problems quickly. There’s never going to be a perfect data set. In these circumstances, we should trust our observations to at least begin the conversation.”

No better summation to the above than Gartner’s Chief of Research, B2B Buying Behavior Hank Barnes on The Tyranny of More:

The more we more, the more we:

  • Sacrifice quality for quantity, and get seduced by the bigger numbers of targets
  • Make decisions without enough research and rigor
  • Tolerate mediocrity and poor conversion rates
  • Discover we don’t have time to put deep focus into many activities
  • Seek ways to appeal to others plagued by the Tyranny of More, giving them more of what they want, but less of what they need

Is it any wonder in this state why we’re struggling on the daily to find any trustworthy meaning in our B2B data? Any wonder our data sets, lakes, warehouses are often unmanageable and it takes forever to get any meaningful insights out of them?

Commercial Insights – At What Cost

 

“Google has 175,000+ capable and well-compensated employees who get very little done quarter over quarter, year over year.”

– Praveen Seshadri, The maze is in the mouse. What ails Google. And how it can turn things around.

If you sit in a company that’s older than 3 years, you’ve felt this pain. We all spend way too much time cobbling data and to what end? Let’s talk about the quantifiable costs but, for me, the more compelling question is: What does it cost organizations to have expensive humans cobbling data? What aren’t they doing while we have them tied up in this muddle?

Take a moment to consider this from the brilliant Dorie Clark.

“Almost every leader wants to make more time for strategic thinking. In one survey of 10,000 senior leaders, 97% of them said that being strategic was the leadership behavior most important to their organization’s success.

And yet in another study, a full 96% of the leaders surveyed said they lacked the time for strategic thinking.”

I’ve been estimating roughly and on average, senior leaders are putting 20% of their time to data cobbling. Recently a head of growth for a mid-sized, global tech company said it’s closer to 40%.

Leaders are so pressed for time, is it really wise for Csuites and Boards to turn a blind eye to these sub-optimal digital health factors? Don’t we want smart people both strategizing and executing based on sound data versus the alternative?

The hard cost factor is also not immaterial. As FiveTran reports, cobbling is costly:

On average, 12 data engineers multiplied by $98,400 salary multiplied by 44% of time spend manually building and maintaining data pipelines equals $519,552 per year

I did a back-of-the-napkin quantifiable cost analysis on senior leader investment, using this FiveTran model:

Content 1

This issue is costing us both cash and countless hours lost in strategizing and executing.

Not to mention cost to customers:

“Everyone at every level will spend hundreds of hours preparing a single executive presentation, but it will be the most junior employee and often not even a full-time employee who is tasked with helping a customer for ten minutes.”

–  Praveen Seshadri’s The Maze Is In the Mouse. What ails Google. And how it can turn things around.

We’re lost says Engaged Orgs’ Rachel Happe:

“People are drowning in so much data they have lost the plot (business value), and because it rarely is obvious what the data means in terms of business implications, they keep thinking the answer is *more* data. What they need is different data.”

And as my friend Jon Reed, Co-founder Diginomica reminds me:

“To add more twists to your conundrums, there is also the problem of clean/reliable data from too many disparate sources. I see this from the largest enterprises all the way down to SMB. Even clean data can be a cobble.”

Surely there’s a better, more logical, reasonable way forward. It will take material energy as closed systems can’t take on new energy without friction. It takes great effort to break down legacy, siloed systems.

Just imagine

If we’re honest, today we are regularly throwing “work” over the wall. We’re wasting inordinate time on the worst work that doesn’t move companies forward and certainly doesn’t serve customers.

What a positive difference it would make to your business if:

  • Leaders across the company have right-sized data sets, corroborated across multiple factors, from which they can easily see insights across all functional areas
  • Instead of material time spent cobbling data, leaders can take the strategic time along with colleagues for careful consideration
  • Teams have the insights they needed to make confident recommendations on paths to follow, resources to turn up, resources to turn down

Ideally at every level in an organization we’re hiring, retaining, and promoting smart people. Right? Imperfectly, sure. But this is our goal.

Shouldn’t we give our leaders and teams more considered time than a scramble throwing shite together before an Ops or exec team meeting?

The payoff is huge on many levels. From Neil Radden in Diginomica:

“When analysis can be shared, especially through software agents that allow others to view and interact with a stream of analysis, instead of a static report or spreadsheet, time-eating meetings and conferences can be shortened or eliminated. Questions and doubts can be resolved without the latency of scheduling meetings. Collaborative software can even eliminate some of the presentation time in meetings. Everyone can satisfy themselves beforehand by evaluating the analysis in context, not just pouring over results and summarizations.”

Imagine the efficiencies. Imagine the quality of the decisions. Imagine:

  • Better, faster, more confident decision-making, with fewer missed opportunities.
  • Insights that drive sales and growth improvements in weeks rather than over months or years.
  • A faster, data-driven trustworthy view of business challenges and opportunities, powering truly collaborative strategic planning.

Trustworthy. Speed. Outcomes!

Big Goals. How do we get there?

For more years than I can count, I’ve wondered why organizations can’t get out of the muck. There’s such great, publicly available roadmaps from Here to There. We all have access to great case studies of transformation wins and fails. Yet if Google is even struggling with this, of course your organization is having a hard time.

As much as I believe in change agents, and the power of a few in organizations to be able to Make Good Happen, inertia is so entrenched in most organizations that we all have to do what we can to persuade the Cs and the Board. Talk about entrenched. I’m not sure anyone has more entrenched mindsets than the Cs and the Board. But that is the challenge in front of us.

What can mere mortals do?

For those of you today who are not on Boards or in the C suite, I recommend two concurrent initiatives:

  • Read The Power of Pull for ways you and your peers can contribute to forward growth. Share it with colleagues. Make a plan.
  • Plant Seeds for transformation outside any current challenges.

I’d not recommend you announce a change initiative or a new model in the middle of a hard tangle. Rather, start to evangelize for your team, in any channel, works that you find inspiring and brainstorm with whoever is interested. Maybe start by sharing The maze is in the mouse. What ails Google. And how it can turn things around. Start with a simple question: How can we avoid that here?

Once you’ve read The Power of Pull you’ll understand how change can happen with small teams. Evangelizing and asking colleagues their thoughts on challenges to address gives you options on problems to solve and a model to solve it.

What Cs and Boards need to do:

My good humans, the first step is to acknowledge that you don’t understand the nuts and bolts of how work doesn’t get done in your organization. You certainly do not know the Rube Goldberg puzzle behind any data presented to you. This is not unusual.

Good news: Your competitive advantage is your peers are just as flawed here.

Please start with the 10 minutes it will take you to read The maze is in the mouse. What ails Google. And how it can turn things around. You should be reassured that if this is happening at the mighty Google, then it’s happening everywhere.

Then,

  • Delete all your current business assumptions. All of them. Every one. Full stop.
  • Remember the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics
    • A closed system can’t take on new energy and chaos only gets worse. Lead an open system. Your organization will never move forward until you build the structure for progress.
  • Great becomes the enemy of good.
    • “There is no need to tolerate months of delay with the new visualisation toolsets. A demand forecast at a 68% confidence interval today is likely to deliver immediate business value without waiting for that 95% nirvana. Get going now and put your data to work today.” Sapphire Systems Director of Automation and AI, Mark Wheeler
  • Approach Evolutional Transformation Holistically
    • Yes you have legacy digital infrastructure but also legacy processes, structures, mindsets. What’s your plan there?
  • Bring in experts to work with your team.
    • Your team knows your company and are vital to the solution. Experts have been there done that loads of time. They have deep expertise in solving these organizational challenges and that’s expertise you don’t have internally. Internal + external makes for a great team.

These are hard problems to solve. And if we don’t solve for both the people and digital sides of change, we’ll lose. Legacy tech, mindsets, structures are hard to shake. But there is a plethora of solutions in the market that can help you through.

The first step is acknowledging you need help.

If you need direction to resources, don’t hesitate to reach out. maureen@serendipitus.io

Managing Director

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