Can we stop talking about big data and start talking about business and customer outcomes?


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Recently, the business world has been awash with stories about the possibilities and applications of big data, analytics, automation and artificial intelligence technologies. However, reading many of these stories, reports, case studies and pieces of research, I find myself slightly conflicted by it all.

On the one hand, I am excited by the impact these technologies will have on an organisation’s ability to deliver improved service and experience to their customers.

Here’s a few examples that illustrate the growing sophistication, application and potential of these technologies:

  • Westpac in Australia is using big data and analytics to better understand their customers buying behaviours across the customer lifecycle. In particular, they found one group of customers who, over time, adopt the same three products in the same order and for the same reasons. However, they also identified a subset of this group that had so far only adopted two of the same three products but, based on their analytical work, they calculated that there was a 90% chance that they would adopt the third product if they were offered it at the right time . As a result, Westpac trained and equipped their branch representatives to inform the ‘two-product customers’ at the ‘right time’ what could be their ‘Next Best Option’. In doing so, the branch representatives have been able to achieve a 40+% conversion rate when offering the 3rd product to these customers.

But, whilst these examples provide evidence of the promise of these new technologies, I also find myself becoming increasingly concerned about the impact all of this attention is having on some organisations, particularly when I hear stories that talk about:

  • How many firms and executives feel that they are drowning in data;
  • How the increasing focus on data and analytics is causing many firms, and the services that they offer, to risk losing their ‘human touch; and

Therefore, I find myself wondering if we should be wary of getting lost in the technologies and their possibilities and whether we should try and mitigate against this by focusing on what we want our businesses to achieve…….like improving service, experience, revenue and profits.

After all, big data, analytics, automation, artificial intelligence and similar technologies are only tools and not ends in themselves.

Geraldine McBride, former President of SAP for North America and founder and CEO of MyWave, put it very well when in an interview she said:

“We need to change the conversation and stop talking about data and start talking about outcomes. Outcomes that brands want to achieve and outcomes that customers want to achieve.”

Companies would do well to consider stepping back from the technological possibilities in order to figure out what job they want to do first before they pick their tools.

This post was originally published on my column.
Photo Credit: elcovs via Compfight cc

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


  1. Thanks Adrian, great examples.
    Talk Talk, hmm, makes me laugh. I moved house, which fired off a demand that I could not get my broadband alone unless I bundled with phone. In other words, this event fired off a demand for upsell in breach of my previous contract which I was still paying for. Furthermore, did not pick up how the interaction worked with the call centre i.e., poor use of language ‘to me’ and tone. Implications – big data can make firms myopic in considering the relationship one of ‘we do this you do that’ while excluding customer perception.
    Analytics by nature tends to be binary: nothing wrong in that, except for these two effects. Mind you for many, upsell and cross-sell is all they care about. Shame its called CX.

  2. Quite true, Adrian. All the technology is not to be implemented for technology (or the vendor’s) sake but in order to enable a business to become better in helping their (prospective) customers achieving their desired outcome (aka job-to-be-done).

    2 ct from Down Under

  3. Hi Steven, couldn’t agree more when you say “big data can make firms myopic in considering the relationship one of ‘we do this you do that’ while excluding customer perception.” Big data and analytics are not a panacea and can make many lazy.

    Hi Thomas, thank you for your 2ct. V much appreciated.


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