Posts Tagged ‘Harvard Business Review’


Is Big Data Better Data?

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Is Big Data Better Data? Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas

What do you think when you hear “Big Data?” If you’re anything like me, you hear some syllables that conjure up an image of lengthy Excel sheets. If you’re more precise, you know that it’s all that data that organizations and computers collect on a daily basis.

But is bigger data better data? There are a lot of factors that determine whether investing in big data will actually help your organization and its efforts.

The biggest issue is that big data can easily turn into GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. You may be pulling in gobs of data every day, but if you don’t know how to use it, don’t get to see it, or don’t know what your most important metrics are, that data is all but useless.  Harvard Business Review has an excellent article (registration required) tracking seven case studies of companies that used their data, how they did it, and whether they used that data effectively or not.

The gist? Using big data – and even small data – effectively takes a lot of preparation, implementation, and adjustment. In many instances, it won’t pay off to jump right into big data if you don’t yet have a grip on your small data. Here are some key takeaways, whether your data is big or small:

Start small

Start by learning to use the data to which you already have access. Most existing CRM or ERM systems obtain a lot of useful data, but many organizations don’t know how to access and/or use it. According to Kapow’s survey, only 23 percent of respondents think their big data initiatives have been a success. So before you go investing in big data, think about what you’d like to do with that big data once you have it. Whether its reforming processes, reorganizing, or restructuring, use the data you already have to start small reformations.

Dedicate resources wisely

Be prepared to dedicate a significant portion of your resources to coaching and training. HBR found that the most important factor in successfully becoming a fact-based decision-making organization was consistent, continuous coaching aimed at improving performance of every individual, especially those who are decision-makers.

Provide real-time feedback

Start providing daily feedback before trying to implement new big data changes. Determine one key metric to focus on (the metric will be different for different departments and different levels) and provide the department with the updated metric every day. HBR found that this not only helped managers determine how to best spend their time, but caused those at lower levels to increase precision and efficiency. Just make sure it’s the right metric; it may take some finessing.

Shift the culture

An organization will not magically change by virtue of investing in big data. HBR found that if the organization had a tradition of fact-based decision making, performed engineering and research functions or was web-native, then it was poised to gain the most from big data.

So don’t just look at the shift to big data as an investment and software issue; instead, organizations need to consider it a major shift in company culture. Like any major culture shifts, it will take a while. Give it time, and allow any revised data processes the leeway to produce flawed data – it will improve, and those involved with the data will, with the proper coaching, seek to improve that data.

According to the Kapow survey, 85 percent of business and IT leaders agree that big data helps make intelligent business decisions and foster a data-driven organization. And for organizations that are data-driven and fact-based decision makers, there is a lot of potential in big data.

Last month I attended the Big Data in Motion Summit, where the speakers were Jack Norris, chief marketing officer for MapR Technologies; Pat Pruchnickyj, product marketing director at Talend; and Clarke Patterson, senior director of product marketing at Cloudera. All speakers expressed enthusiasm for the impact big data can have on organizations. And little wonder – they all work for companies that provide big data solutions.

The conference was intended to educate attendees about big data’s potential, results, and myriad of advantages, though the speakers mostly talked about platform options and advantages of their own services. Patterson pointed out that 64 percent of organizations invested or were planning to invest in big data in 2013, so of course, getting the down-low on services is pretty necessary.

Norris explained that the need for big data is driven by three V’s:

Volume (by 2020 enterprise data volume will be four times higher than it was in 2009)

Variety (data is both structured and unstructured and gathered from a myriad of devices, processes, and sources, and stored in different ways)

Velocity (large organizations produce massive amounts of data. Facebook gathers 100 terabytes per day, WalMart has 1 million transactions per hour)

There are plenty of organizations that stand to gain from big data if it’s implemented wisely, but it’s not the “big” part of data that provides benefits – it’s learning to use data big or small in the correct way. No matter the size of your data, you still need to know your key metrics and how to base decisions around those metrics. The opportunities data provides come down to leveraging the data you have into powerful insights and harnessing it in an efficient, fact-based way.

Three Ways to Actually Be Productive

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Three Ways to Actually be Productive Pareto Principle Time Management Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuce Fresh IdeasThere are countless sites and blog posts dedicated to productivity; it’s even the most popular category on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog. But what are we talking about when we talk productivity? Is it improving focus, or just getting more done? And why is it that we still feel the need to spend our time (which could be spent productively) reading about other people’s productivity habits and looking for lifehacks to make us more productive?

Here’s what productivity is not: It’s not about forcing yourself to work until midnight and rise at 5 a.m. every day. More time awake does not equal more stuff done.

Productivity is not multitasking. Sometimes, you can’t avoid trying to do two things at once. But if you’re busy writing one thing and talking about another, you’ll wind up spending more time trying to do two things at once and going back and fixing them than you would if you gave things the proper attention in the first place. Focus provides clarity; this applies to activities, priorities and thinking.

Finally, productivity is not about doing everything, but doing what is important. Because no one can do everything, and that’s okay.

Take Breaks

There’s a real stigma around relaxation, be it actually using the vacation days you’re allotted, or stepping out for a break to take a walk and recharge. We think if you don’t look like you’re doing something, you must be lollygagging, and that toxic mindset is itself counterproductive.

If you’d been walking for two hours, you’d stop to rest, right? So doesn’t your brain need a rest after working for two hours? It does, so start building breaks into your day to recharge your mental energy. It’s usually a lot easier to focus after coming back from a break and letting your brain think about something else – or nothing at all – for a few minutes. Plus, a lot of “Aha!” moments come during mental downtime, like when we’re driving, walking, washing dishes, or just being.

Then Do Stuff

Of course, the flip side is disciplining yourself to actually do something after taking a break. But this is a matter of discipline, not work ethic. The best way to establish good habits is to start piecemeal, and getting started is always the hardest part. If you’re really having trouble doing anything or starting a certain project, work in digestible chunks.

Sometimes getting things accomplished requires delegation and collaboration for the best result.  Collaboration can create the “mental break” cycle you need to re-visit more stagnant activities and finally see them through to completion. Teamwork works.  Experiment with what helps you to be most productive and satisfied with your efforts, find the sweet spot, and stick to it.

But Only Do Stuff That Matters

Almost everything is unimportant – even the Harvard Business Review says so. Trying to do everything results in achieving almost nothing. The workaround? Look at everything you do. Chances are, about 20 percent of your effort achieves about 80 percent of your results. This is the Pareto Principle, and it works the other way: 80 percent of efforts achieve just 20 percent of results.

Determine the few things that get results and make those priority tasks. The Harvard Business Review suggests writing a list of your top six things to get done, then crossing off the bottom five and scheduling a 90-minute block to work on just the top item. Every time you go to check social media or email, write down what you’re about to do. Of course, this means avoiding distraction, and that again comes down to discipline and working piecemeal. You might not do it perfectly the first time, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get at getting in a routine, blocking out distraction, and focusing on what’s actually important.

BurrellesLuce Newsletter: Branding in 2011: 6 Tips to Help Optimize Your Efforts

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
Marketing Funnel resized

March 2011

People typically equate a company’s brand with the company’s logo. But a brand is much more than a stylized name: It is a primary symbol of an organization’s purpose, vision and values. Indeed, the act of branding represents a strategic endeavor that encompasses a range of corporate functions—marketing, public relations, and customer service, not the least, among them.

Branding also includes the way employees present their company to its various constituencies, whether intentionally through the communication of key messages or incidentally through everyday emails, social-media engagement and phone conversations.

Digital’s Impact on Branding

Before the advent of digital technology, buyers in both the business-to-consumer (B-to-C) and the business-to business (B-to-B) space would be open to receiving sales communications from a number of brand ambassadors. They may have been exposed to messages pushed to them from dozens of companies, clients, or products from which they could reduce the pool of realistic choices to those offerings that were closely aligned with their needs.

Marketing and other communications professionals relied on this traditional “funnel” approach, and reached out to their prospects and audiences at specific intervals in the selling cycle—most often at the point of “consideration.” The ball was essentially in the seller’s court.

Things are very different today. “Consumers in both the B-2-C and the B-2-B markets still want a clear brand promise and offerings they value. What has changed is when—at what touch points—they are most open to influence, and how you can interact with them at those points,” David C. Edelman states in this Harvard Business Review article. “In the past,” Edelman explains, “marketing strategies that put the lion’s share of resources into building brand awareness and then opening wallets at the point of purchase worked pretty well. But touch points have changed in both number and nature, requiring a major adjustment to realign marketers’ strategies and budgets with where consumers are actually spending their time.” He goes on to suggest that consumers are now most open to influence at the “evaluate” stage and not at the “consider” stage.

Read more about digital’s impact on branding and learn six tips to help optimize your branding efforts in this month’s BurrellesLuce newsletter.

Relationships and Referrals: Making the Most of Your Two Most Important Business Assets

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Valerie Simon

Early on in my career I received a phone call from a client who began the conversation with, “Hey Valerie, I want to introduce you to a friend of mine…”

I very much enjoyed and respected this client and was thrilled that he wanted to introduce me to his friend. In my mind I fantasized about his intentions. Perhaps we would all go out for dinner, or maybe he was setting me up on a date… my thoughts were interrupted by the words “director of corporate communications” and “in charge of media monitoring.” My heart began to pound as I realized what was happening. I was getting my first referral!

Today I regularly receive such phone calls, but the thrill has yet to go away. While Relationships and Referralsreferrals add up to quantitative results of your efforts to build relationships, they also offer bona fide proof that your relationship is one of trust and confidence (Cue Sally Fields, “They like me, they really like me!!!)

In order to earn new business, you’ll need to invest both time and resources and maximize your opportunities in the most efficient manner. Below are 5 steps to help you become more strategic in your relationship building and increase the number of referrals you receive:

1. Perform a SWOT analysis. Identify your own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and then clearly identify the organizations you are targeting. As you consider different prospects and prospect categories, evaluate the customer needs against your analysis. Brad Douglas, vice president of sales and marketing with Shipley Associates, offers some excellent considerations to help you better assess your opportunities for targeting the right customers.

2. Determine the influencers you need to reach. As mentioned in this post from the Harvard Business Review, you may think you know the decision maker, “the one that is described in the RFP or articulated by those who actively participate in the formal decision-making process.” However, there are often key influencers within the organization who carry informal power as it relates to your opportunity. Take the time to uncover and develop those relationships.

3. Utilize ALL of your current relationships. While most organizations have a sales team or business development group, I am a firm believer that everyone in an organization, regardless of title or department, should consider themselves a member of the sales team. If you are proud of your organization and even if you are not (though you may want to ask yourself why are you working there?), it is your responsibility to help your company grow. Communication and collaboration between the sales team and other departments is essential. Beyond your organization, consider your vendors, partners and affiliates, clients, industry contacts, and even personal networks. If you aren’t actively using LinkedIn it is a great place to start organizing and expanding your network.

4. Ask for the referral! It is interesting that many people shy away from asking for a referral when they need/want it. Consider what’s stopping you. Are you afraid of creating an uncomfortable or potentially annoying situation? If yes, then that is good because it means you are thinking about and potentially being considerate of the person you wish to ask. And that is what distinguishes a “pushy salesman” from a friend you want to help. So be professional to and respectful of the person you are asking, their relationship, and their reputation. But don’t let that stop you from asking. After all, if you have real relationships, qualified targets, and a product/service you believe in, the person you’re asking should have no issue referring you and the person you’re introduced to will soon be thanking your friend for making the introduction.

5. Beyond ABC’s… ABH. While I certainly understand and appreciate the need to “Always Be Closing,” my personal philosophy is to “Always Be Helping.” In sales, and perhaps maybe in life, your reputation is everything. So be the person you want to be perceived to be – whether or not it meets an immediate business goal. In this case, that person is one who is helpful and informative and acutely aware of the needs and goals of his/her clients, prospects, colleagues, friends and family. In other words, take every opportunity to add real value and help them achieve their goals.

How are you making the most of one of your most precious resources – your relationship with others? Do you find it easy to ask for referrals and network when needed? What tips would you add to the list? If you are having trouble, what do you think is holding you back? Please share your thoughts with me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.

Do You Need To Unplug From Social Media?

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Salem Sue World's LargestI just returned from vacation. Before I left, several people told me to turn off my BlackBerry. Maj. David Faggard, U.S. Air Force, who was on a PRSA-NCC Twitter panel I recently moderated, said his time in Afghanistan allowed him to “turn-off” the social media noise. He recommended we all do it from time to time. Can you do it?

This CNN article suggests it is “anxiety” that keeps most of us from unplugging completely on vacation. I’ll admit I, just like “tech-loving kids and parents,” could not do it. I knew there would be emails sent only to me which I would then need to forward to others. I’m also a news junkie, and Twitter is one of my best news feeds.

But, I did try to limit my time on the “crackberry” and computer to a few minutes a day. Peter Bregman’s post The Mostly Unplugged Vacation for the Harvard Business Review shares many of my same feelings and strategies. His suggestion for those who can’t unplug completely: “Choose a specified time — and timeframe — each evening… Scheduling time sets clear expectations — for you, for the other people on your vacation, and for the people reaching you.”

Social media doesn’t have to be for work, so I decided to use Foursquare and Facebook to share my vacation with my friends. Since I was headed to see family and friends in North Dakota, I knew the locations would be quite different from the usual tourist spots others would be visiting. I really enjoyed the comments I received, especially after visiting the world’s largest Holstein Cow in New Salem, ND. (However, I was surprised no one responded, when I became the “mayor” of Wood Lake, ND.)  And, many people shared my pain as I was delayed, re-routed, and delayed again in my attempt to fly home.

The key to enjoying your vacation seems to be setting limits on your online interaction. Here are a few good posts on ways to manage your time:

Are you unplugging on your vacation? What tips do you have for the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas readers?