Have you ever wondered what it’s really like to be a strategist? We sat down with roboboogie Director of Strategy and Operations, Jed Fugle, to give you an inside look into the world of data-driven strategy to see what makes him tick – spoiler alert, it’s data! Jed wears many hats in his role here at roboboogie, so let’s consider this interview Part 1: Getting Started With Data.
What data do you look at first when developing strategy for a new client?
I love that data is more intentionally finding its way into business decision making. In the past 5 years or so, the growing conversation around the importance of data-driven decision making has allowed new ways of collecting, analyzing and harnessing information to emerge, and the result has changed the way businesses are run. With that has come new frameworks, systems, processes, models, and of course, more trending buzzwords. But the concept of using data-points to make decisions isn’t a new idea. Every decision made is based off of some data-set, whether it based upon gut instinct (from previous experience with similar types of events) or in a more strategic manner (from pursuing counsel of others, down to collecting and analyzing quantitative data for statistical relevance). The point here is that it is easy to get overwhelmed by the trendiness and the expanse of approaches to using data in business decision making. What is important is to start somewhere and grow from there.
I grew up in a science household with two Biology professor parents, so I know my way around generating a hypothesis, setting up a testable experiment, and ensuring data is reliable. So for me, I tend toward the more quantitative side of things because it is where I am most comfortable. The advance in the tech sector to equip organizations with the capabilities to join the “Big Data” movement – to collect and record all data sets possible for future use without and experiment in mind – is really exciting. It has allowed for hypotheses to be made and tested within historical data sets, allowing for much more rapid observing, learning and application.
The most common first step within organizations toward this idea has been the use of a website analytics platform (like Google Analytics) to collect behavioral data in real time. Because this is becoming such a widely adopted step in the digital space, it is where I prefer starting with clients.
What do you think is the not-so-secret, secret to being effective with data?
Asking really good questions. The analytics gathered by platforms like Google Analytics are valuable at a high level to keep an eye on key metrics like number of visitors, lead generation, revenue totals, and general geo and demographic data. But the real value comes in the ability to historically evaluate hypotheses within data sets. You can then begin to start asking smart questions, to inform future smart decisions: When we added the new product line, how did that affect sales for complimentary products? Was that true for all demographics? Are shopper behavioral trends consistent to our other lines when they purchase this new product?
Don’t worry about asking too many questions, but also learn to adapt the questions you are asking to match the data you already have (And be sure to start collecting the right data! Check out more about the importance of investing in Google Analytics here.) It doesn’t hurt to dream about the ideal data you would like to have within a certain stage of process, because when you know what you would like to have, you can make organizational changes to be better equipped next time.
Asking good questions has other benefits, as well. In order to put together a strong hypothesis about a user’s behavior, you have to put yourself in their shoes. You have to envision the problem they are facing and the challenges along the way that may or may not be being solved well for them by the organization. Sometimes it can be difficult to get into this mindset, but like everything, practice helps. The end result: a data-driven, customer-centric mindset. From my experience, it is in this space that the best problem solving happens.
What opinion do you have about data-driven strategy that others may not agree with?
Don’t get paralyzed by the need for certain data. The pressure to get something right should never prevent you from starting. Use the resources you have and make the best decisions you can with the customer in mind. Failure is a great data point. Learn from your mistakes, and learn from the mistakes of others. Use data whenever you can, but don’t let it inhibit you from getting out there and trying to optimize what is in front of you.
Thanks for letting us pick your brain, Jed! Tune in next month for another interview with a roboboogie pro.