March 18, 2019

Marketers moonlighting as data scientists? Get real. Hire a data team

By 
R. Danes

Some companies opt to run random big-data experiments in pockets of their organizations. Perhaps marketing will hire a person or two to help them analyze data on lead conversion. Maybe they will derive profitable insights; maybe they won’t.

Companies serious about becoming agile, data-driven machines need a more organized, centralized approach. It begins with hiring a dedicated data team and then enabling them with a purpose-built data platform, according to Harry Glaser (pictured), co-founder and chief executive officer of analytics software company Periscope Inc.

The scenario where different departments put together their own isolated data projects is pretty common, according to Glaser. “It’s catch-as-catch-can. Marketing is looking at one view of data from the marketing world; sales is looking at another view of data from the sales world,” he said.

The lack of a single source of truth results in inaccurate analytics, poor business decisions, and squabbles. “Maybe they got into a fight about how many leads marketing delivered to sales. Marketing analyst says 10; sales analyst says … five,” Glaser said. “It goes all the way up to the CEO who has no … idea what’s going on with this fight.”

The solution to problems like these is a centralized data team, Glaser pointed out. They steward all data in an organization and ensure there is a single source of truth. Periscope’s platform is a system of record built for data teams. It’s a bit like what customer relationship management software is to sales people, Glaser added.

“When we started six years ago, and we were talking about platform for data teams, people were like, ‘data teams?‘” he said. The conversation is going smoother lately, as data teams headed by chief data officers are becoming more common.

Glaser spoke with Peter Burris for a CUBE Conversation at theCUBE’s studio in Palo Alto, California. They discussed Periscope’s platform and why the data team should be the most popular people in a company.

This week, theCUBE spotlights Periscope in our Startup of the Week feature.

Culture plays catch up with tech

The quest is on to cure what ails big data in enterprises, vendor research and development teams and information technology consultancies. Gartner Inc. analyst Nick Heudecker‏ estimated that 85 percent of big data projects fail. What is the culprit for this dismal figure? Explanations range from biased algorithms to overdependence on software where deep cultural changes are needed.

“Honestly, the technology part, the bringing it together is the easy part,” Seth Dobrin, vice president and chief data officer of analytics at IBM Corp., told theCUBE last year. “It’s the cultural change that goes along with it that’s really, really hard.”

A recent survey of Fortune 1,000 companies (mostly in financial services and healthcare industries) by NewVantage Partners LLC found that 62 percent reported measurable results from their big-data and artificial-intelligence investments. Less than half said they’re competing on data and analytics, and just 28 percent said they have a data-driven culture. Interestingly, 31 percent of executives said their organizations are data-driven; that number is down from 37 percent in the same survey from two years ago. Ninety-five percent of respondents said cultural challenges, rather than technology, is holding back their progress in big data and AI.

The crux of the cultural problem has to do with departments operating as islands. “Most organizations are still organized along traditional business and technology lines, but data cuts across all lines of business,” said Randy Bean, NewVantage’s chief executive and principal author of the study. “Data is horizontal, but organizations tend to be vertical. They must come to appreciate that new organizational structures are required.”

CDO answers SOS

What struggling organizations need is a strong leader to unite them and drive horizontal data initiatives from the top down, according to Glaser.

“You hire … a centralized data team ideally reporting to a chief data officer who can form a source of truth and form best practices in the organization for how they work with and make decisions with data,” he said.

Companies serious about becoming data driven should hire a CDO first, according to Glaser. Then they need to empower the CDO to build a data team — analysts “farmed out” to the rest of the organization but always reporting back to the data team. The data team adheres to best practices and a single source of truth to avoid conflicts and confusion.

This is the cultural shift needed to become data-driven, Glaser pointed out. It requires compatible technology that unifies and merges data. Periscope’s platform provides the single source of truth on data, he added.

Merging missing pieces solves insights puzzle

Merging different data sources allows companies to answer large questions and predict outcomes. With siloed marketing data, they may be able to look at marketing spend and return on investment, for instance.

“But you still can’t say, ‘What’s my total spend to acquire a customer?’ until you merge the marketing and sales data. So now you’ve merged into a single source of truth. You resolve all the conflicts and differences between the organizations,” Glaser stated.

Individuals in sales, marketing, and other departments can rely on centralized data teams for accurate data. They do the legwork for them and provide a quicker, easier route to creating business value.

“A good test is, the CDO and their people should be the most popular people in the organization. Everyone loves them, because they bring free value all the time,” Glaser said.

Bonus: When good data is readily available, it almost forces companies to become more agile. “You end up requiring a more agile organization because you’re going to be getting more and more insights over time and changing direction based on those insights,” Glaser said.

Data teams at Adobe Inc., Flexport International LLC, Rover Inc. and Harvard University use Periscope.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s CUBE Conversations.

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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