This week on “Masters of Metrics”, our host Emma Lo Russo talks to Kshira Saagar, the Chief Data Officer at Latitude Financial Services. He previously headed up data-driven analytics at THE ICONIC and the Global Fashion Group, as well as companies in many other industries. He’s one of the top 10 analytics leaders in Australia. They discuss the importance of data for organizations of all sizes, and practical methods of implementing best data practices now and in the future.
Top strategies to create data-driven business objectives
The ephemeral word “data” refers to all the knowledge people and businesses can collect about – well, anything, but most often about their customers. The more data you can collect, the better you can assess your customers’ behaviour, and chart a smarter course forward for your business.
In order to use and embed data in your business, Kshira Saagar recommends both the “VIP” approach and the “D cubed” approach.
The VIP Approach
V is for Visibility. Data can help inform and drive your strategy and actions, but first you must have visibility of all the data that you have – and not only you, but ideally everyone in your business. If everyone knows what’s happening across the business, they start their day and choose their actions differently. Through visibility of data, they can see the impact they have, and so can everyone else.
I is for Intelligence. As Kshira says, people often get excited about collecting data, having all the data and the best tools to get data, but then they just hold onto it. They don’t do anything with it. But you have to translate data into intelligence and insights. (Note: it doesn’t have to be huge. It can be as simple as knowing that next week, maybe you need all five casual staff in store, because you have the demand right now.)
P is for Purpose. There are two sides to the purpose necessary for data to shine. The first is that there is a purpose for the data team to exist. You need to really need them, and know what they’re doing. The second side to purpose is that the data team themselves need to know their purpose in what they are doing for the company. Both sides need to know the purpose for their existence to drive success.
The D-Cubed or D3 Approach
The first D is for define. Define what you want to solve with data, such as: how to get more customers, how to make sure you’re not losing money. Then start looking into what data and tools and people you need.
The second D is for depend. Sometimes you can’t solve all the problems yourself. You are allowed to depend on help from someone or something else when you’re starting out, such as a tool someone else spent 10,000 hours building.
The third D is for defend. Defend what you need to build in-house and make sure that you keep the IP in-house, especially if you think that thing is the secret sauce of your company. Get the funding or the resources to do it.
Measuring brand, performance and customer success
There are strengths and weaknesses in the arenas of both traditional (TV, radio) marketing and digital marketing. Kshira outlined some of the metrics he tracks in terms of measuring success, beyond ROI and ROAS.
How effective your brand marketing is can be measured with things like brand health surveys in aided and unaided awareness.
Meanwhile, Kshira tracks a brand’s performance in the digital world via the CIR, the Cost to Income Ratio. This is a measure of how much cost (the total revenue you expect to generate from a marketing channel) you are willing to put into that same marketing channel to get income. Maybe 5% of your total revenue from paid search, for example, can get you the traffic you need to generate that revenue.
To measure customer success and satisfaction, Kshira recommends the NPS or net promoter score. However, track NPS at a customer level in order to understand what they’ve done, why they’re happy or unhappy, what they’ve bought, and what the score is across different stages of the customer journey. If you have NPS scores for specific segments of activity or audience, you can uncover where you need to improve. (Any size business can do this with emails and survey tools!)
Building stories with data and about data
Kshira has a gift for telling stories, one he thinks he inherited from his grandfather. He also loves math, and wanted a career where he could use math every day.
These talents entwined to lead Kshira onto a path where he deals both with data, and with getting clients and boards and potential investors to buy into what data is telling them to do.
Often, he says, boards and executives and investors don’t have the time or inclination to go into the nitty gritty details of the data methodologies. They ask questions and they want straightforward answers and recommendations, such as “if you implement this, you’ll get 20% uplift in revenue, decrease 10% churn, gain X million dollars”.
But one of the best ways of answering the how is by telling a story they will remember, associating data and its outcomes with metaphors in the story. That’s how you can help people really understand what you’re doing.
Rapid fire questions!
- Guilty pleasure? Video games.
- Inspirations? Apple.
- What age would you pick to be for the rest of your life? “Whatever age I am when the singularity hits and all the problems are solved.”
Our picks for the best takeaways
On careers in data science: “One thing I learned really quickly: it’s not about solving the problem. No one cares. It’s about this: once you’ve solved the problem, how does somebody use that solution?”
On data scientists in the boardroom: “If somebody can translate from data to English or math to English, or whatever language somebody spoke, that’s the crucial element.”
On storytelling with data: “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. And a story always makes the point go down. Human beings connect to stories, because stories have a start and an end and a purpose and a meaning.”
On the current data industry: [In the last 5-7 years] “The questions have become more complex because people are not solving the same problems anymore… despite all the tools, the challenges are new, and so the tools are catching up, but the challenges are continually changing.”
On ecommerce: “It’s still the younger sibling in such a big market. Only $10-$14 out of every hundred dollars is being spent online, so you’re still fighting for that other $86-$90, in an unknown world of quiet people not coming shopping with you for some reason you’re trying to find out.”