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Don’t look the information gift horse in the mouth

Created: 17 May 2012 • Updated: 25 Jun 2013
Sarah Whipp's picture
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We’re hearing a great deal about 'information' in the media at the moment. According to both analysts and the word on the street, businesses have greater access to a broader set of information than ever they did in the past. As one of the main areas of impact, we are told, is in marketing and advertising (LINK: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17764117), I'm clearly going to be interested.

 

Information is the foundation of marketing and business as a whole. And unless you analyse it correctly, any decision you make is based on hope, luck and gut feeling alone.  This has always been true, but as the amount of unstructured information grows, the challenge for companies is ensuring that their departments and teams use a common data set for critical business decisions.

 

Information growth and real time access is a blessing to companies to make them more agile and better equipped to respond to customer needs and competitor tactics. If you’ve got the right information at your fingertips – for example in terms of what’s selling and where, how effective are specific campaigns and the broader context – you’re going to be better able to allocate your resources.

 

But information has also led to some of the biggest conflicts between departments who find themselves advocating incompatible strategies, using different data sets across different time periods. Given that people are smart, how could this be? The answer for me is summed up in the old proverb, “Lies, damn lies and statistics” – unsurprisingly departments tend pick the data set that shows them in the best light, which means it is rarely the same data set or time period for all.

 

What’s to do? While you may have checked you are on the same page, it boils down to making sure you are reading the same book. Different teams in different departments may have their own priorities, but they all need to make decisions based on the same data. Doing anything else is simply going to cause conflict down the line, when it is harder to deal with.

 

Yes, information is plentiful and it’s going to become more so. But we still need to ask the right questions up front, to make sure that we make the most of the opportunities it offers.