The Analytics Question to Ask: Is Your Data Connected to Action?

By ​Bruce Ernst

June 26, 2013

We’ve read a lot about the use of data in “Moneyball” lately. And we’ve been part of that conversation as well, with our CEO David Brussin weighing in on just that.

Overall, we’ve focused on “Moneyball” as proof that organizations need data. But there’s one aspect of “Moneyball” that’s been on my mind lately, one that I don’t think we’ve talked about enough: Connecting data to action. BatterPadded

Whether you saw the movie or read the book, you’ll notice that if the story of “Moneyball” had ended halfway through, it would’ve been a disaster. Here’s why: For the first half of the story, the Oakland A’s had the data they needed about the players.

But the data wasn’t enough. The manager of the team was still executing his old strategy the same way he always had. And the team was still losing as a result. Before putting that data into action, the team was still getting the same results.

Let’s look at one player as an example: Joe Blanton, a pitcher. None of the scouts liked Blanton because he looked out of shape. But Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane understood that Blanton struck people out, and he knew a pitcher doesn’t need to run more than 10 feet at a time. Who cares how fast Blanton runs? His job is to pitch.

While everyone else was concerned with how players looked in a jersey, or whether they had the full five tools, Beane was basing his choices on which players could get on base and which pitchers could strike out batters. Nothing else mattered.

I believe something similar is happening when it comes to data and website optimization. Organizations are buying super-expensive business intelligence (BI) tools. They are hiring data scientists to examine their analytics and create statistical models and distributions. And there’s a lot of time and money going into these projects. But what results are they getting?

That’s where the gap resides: between data and action. After all of the analytics, after all of the boardroom discussions, what do companies end up doing? “Let’s do a coupon code! How about an email campaign?” Those might be effective strategies in some cases, but are they really a reaction to your data? We have so much great data now, but in most instances we’re still applying that information to our old way of doing things instead of trying something new, instead of using that data to create a new customer experience.

From a website optimization standpoint, these factors are killing companies. Organizations are losing millions of dollars due to an inability to translate their data into action. But there’s a solution, once you have the right tools in place.

Your organization needs to get its data into the hands of people who can actually get things done. In order to connect your strategy to action, you have to make sure that your analytics team isn’t living in a silo far from the people within your organization that are executing on that data. That means both of those groups of people must have the same data and tools in order to find the data your organization truly needs to innovate, to try new things, to drive customer acquisition and new revenue.

This will enable you to find an over-performing customer segment that doesn’t make up a large majority of your website traffic and use your other marketing channels to generate more of that traffic. It will enable you to find a customer segment that’s performing poorly, and determine whether your organization has a shot at getting those folks to perform better, as well as uncover whether you’re doing something wrong when it comes to those visitors.

Remember: Just like in “Moneyball,” you can have all of the best data in the world at your fingertips. But if you cannot connect your data to action, if you’re still doing what you’ve always done, you’re never going to get on base.

Baseball Player image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Bruce Ernst is the former vice president of product management at Monetate. He has more than 20 years of experience in applying strategic plans to immediate execution as well as communicating complex technology solutions in a simple and straightforward manner. Prior to joining Monetate, Bruce was head of Webstore Product Management at GSI Commerce (now part of eBay), a Monetate customer.

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