This is the first article in the larger series of interviews around diverse aspects of Data Science technology and its practical implementation in modern businesses. Today in the interview: Boris Belfor, till recently Product Owner with dataWerks.

What is different about Data hype, compared with Cloud, for example?

As a decision maker, you may sit down and make a calculation: when outsourcing of your computing or your storage in a cloud pays back? What about risks, what about chances? How difficult will the transition be? At the end, you still may find good reasons to keep a part of your IT in your own hands forever.

Setting the data in the focus of the business workflows is similarly disruptive but more rewarding and has a lower entry threshold. Data driven companies relate to traditional companies like network of computers relates to a number of isolated workstations. Yes, employees in data driven companies work differently. But they take better and faster decisions, work cheaper, allow more room for automation and achieve better quality. Depending on the use case, data technology can deliver significantly better ROI than Cloud.

What data driven small business look like?

If you are a small traditional hotel, you make sure you are known to the touristic operators active in your area, you advertise on the websites of regional authorities, you send Xmas cards to all guests who visited you last year. Your data driven competitors know their customers quite exactly: where the guests prefer to book, what services they book together with the night stay, what do they post on Facebook about the hotel. As the result, they place targeted advertising on Internet and maximise the click-through-rate. They can greet the guest not only by a standard glass of secco, but by placing his favourite set of pillows in the room – before the guest asks for that. They can incentive guests for network marketing, offer individual booking packages. They actually can make guests more happy while achieving more bed-nights than you. If they play it right, a data driven hotel is your competitor from hell.

How should the businesses start their Data Age?

As a business, you can appoint a certain area to be a pilot for data driven operation, for example customer care and loyalty program, also dubbed 360 degree customer view.

Within that area, you should determine one or few business metrics. What that may be, decide business owners together with their controllers. Importantly, the metrics are

  • relevant, i.e. sensitive to your main success factors and not so much to any other factor,
  • dynamic, i.e. based on current state of the business instead of historical data and can be taken frequently (e.g. daily, weekly or monthly)
  • measurable, i.e. reliant on hard numbers instead of judgments and assumptions

Then, you look at the data you have at hand – inventories, daily cash register records, everything, – and combine them in a way to produce the business metric you want to have. Really big and complex companies employ data scientists for creation of data models and, you may discover you actually would need to collect a bit more or a bit different data than you do today.

With the data model written on whiteboard, you surely want to see a daily report at your desk, served with your morning cup of coffee. This is sometimes a honourable challenge for IT people and Data Engineers, who deploy analysis systems and take care of format compatibility and other issues.

Once you’re there, you’ll see that is just a landmark, not the end of Data journey. Most advanced businesses don’t only provide all functions in their company with the related business metrics, they also develop new business rules and automated acting modules, e.g. web content generation, customer communication, price adjustment, etc.

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