October 19, 2006

Webcast: Competing on Analytics

The AMA is hosting a complimentary webcast on Tuesday, October 31, 2006:

Competing On Analytics: Move Faster, Accomplish More, and Avoid Mistakes by Learning From The Best

Like never before, marketers today are being held accountable for their impact on the corporate bottom line. Quantifiable results matter more than ever as marketing initiatives are conceived, executed, and eventually evaluated.

Professor Tom Davenport, Babson College (that would be me!)
Anna Carbonara, Moderator, American Marketing Association

Capital One, Procter & Gamble, Amazon and other leaders pioneered this data-driven approach to marketing. If your marketing organization is like most, you've already begun a similar move towards leveraging data and analytics. Like most, you're probably also facing the same challenges faced by the early adopters - finding and retaining qualified staff, aligning with shifting business priorities, and satisfying the (seemingly) endless demand for analysis, for example.

What you will learn:

- What data-driven marketing is (and isn't)
- How marketing visionaries are using analytics for competitive advantage
- What specific tactics these early adopters believe are essential to their success (and what they'd do differently next time)
- How you can personally succeed as a marketer during these tumultuous times

Who Should Attend:

- Business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketers at all levels, up to and including CMO's and Vice Presidents of Marketing
- Information technology professionals, particularly those in fields involving collaboration with marketing colleagues

As some of you may have noticed, I've been rather busy. This webcast is a good way to catch up.

I hope to see you there. Register >>

Posted by Tom Davenport at 12:14 AM | Permalink | TrackBacks (0)

June 06, 2006

Attention Bloggers!

I haven’t written a blog entry in a while, but apparently a lot of people have. I heard in a presentation today that there are (as of May 30th, 2006) 28,592,813 blogs, and 43,109 new blogs in the last 24 hours. Hmmmm. One could argue that this is too many. As I pointed out in my first entry for the Babson Knowledge blog, the key issue is the imbalance of information in the blogosphere and the amount of human attention available to attend to it. It’s far easier to write a blog than to get anyone to read it. This imbalance leads me to believe that a couple of major changes need to take place in individual and organizational information environments.

One is the automated mining of textual and unstructured information. We’re finally getting a handle on how to get value from structured information. But most organizations don’t have a clue about how to mine blogs, emails, instant messages, presentations, and so forth. We don’t have time to look at all of this stuff to see if it’s interesting and relevant to us, so we will have to have systems that find the good content and serve it up or summarize it for us. It is individuals that read and take action on unstructured information, so we need to address this issue at the individual level.

Some of this mining will be automatically intuited by an intelligent system based on stuff we’ve looked at in the past, and perhaps on how we’ve rated it. But, of course, we’ve been hearing for a number of years that such “machine learning” will improve our lives. Thus far and for the foreseeable future, we’re going to have to help our computers with some personal interventions. In particular, we’re going to have to get better at specifying what information we care about.

Most of us are pretty haphazard about what information we need and want to see. We click mindlessly through the blogosphere. We read whatever free magazines publishers are willing to send us. We read whatever emails appear in our inboxes or on our Blackberry screens. One prominent GE executive admitted to me—without much sheepishness—that the only articles he reads are those that other people attach to his email messages. This is not a well-designed personal information environment!

Someday it will all be better. I’ll be able to say to a computer something like the following:

- I like and want to read/hear/view content about the Boston Red Sox, analytical competition, attempts to improve the performance of knowledge work, case studies about knowledge management, process management initiatives that employ IT, Julie Bowen (a somewhat obscure but lovely actress) and so forth.

- I don’t want to receive stuff about dining hall schedules at Babson College, regular meetings that I have never attended in the past, marketing messages from IT vendors, movies that are badly reviewed, hockey, Britney Spears, and so forth.

Of course, it’s the “and so forth” that kills us. We know some things we definitely like and don’t like, but we’re always afraid that we’re missing something important, and we’re afraid to rule out sources and topics because there just might be something valuable there. I’m hoping that technology will help us out in this regard—noting that you haven’t looked at the last 42 RSS feeds from a particular blog, so maybe you should stop pretending to be interested in it—or that you seem to be clicking on a lot of sites about real estate in Palo Alto, so should I feed you more of that? Between all of us working a little harder at figuring out what we want, and a bit of help from intelligent software, we’ll eventually get to an attention-preserving environment that still keeps us well-informed.

Posted by Tom Davenport at 12:21 AM | Permalink | TrackBacks (0)

May 22, 2006

A Storytelling Story

Pretty much everyone interested in knowledge management knows that storytelling can be an effective knowledge-sharing technique, largely because it conveys context, causal relationships, and emotional content more effectively than most other modes of communication.

Here’s one little story about storytelling that suggests some of the benefits.

For six years, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory librarian Teresa Bailey has been overseeing monthly storytelling sessions at JPL’s library that often attract fifty or more listeners. Some stories have focused on fairly narrow technical or scientific issues (for instance, “Discovery of Sulfur Dioxide on Jupiter’s Satellite Io”). Other stories have dealt with particular missions (“The True Story Behind the Mars Pathfinder Success”), with more general learning from experience (“How Spacecraft Fail”), and with the organization itself (“Jet Propulsion Laboratory—The Early Years”).

What do people get from these stories? Some pick up bits of wisdom they can apply to their own work—do’s and don’t’s of planning and design, maybe a technical insight that helps solve a problem. Some are inspired by stories of success. Most gain a greater sense of connection with the organization, because they hear about what colleagues have been doing, because the stories express values and aims that tellers and listeners share, and because they are participating in a communal experience. I believe building trust and relationships is a more important effect of organizational storytelling than knowledge transfer.

Knowledge managers seldom talk about what stories do for their tellers. In fact, the benefits of telling a story can be profound. Shaping stories helps people make sense of experiences they’ve had. Telling them to a receptive audience not only provides heartening evidence that colleagues find your work interesting and valuable, it remind the tellers how much they care about what they do. Describing her scientist and engineer storytellers, Bailey says, “They don’t even know how passionate they are about their work until they start talking about it.”

The person who learns most from the story is often the one who tells it.

Posted by Don Cohen at 12:35 PM | Permalink | TrackBacks (0)

May 20, 2006

How Google Plans to Change the Scope of Googling (And Why Information and Knowledge Workers Should Care)

Want to find out where the weird word “pachyderm” came from? Just google the phrase “pachyderm etymology” and within a second you can learn how the English word traces its roots back to Frenchman Georges Cuvier, the father of modern biology. In 1797 Cuvier began using the French pachyderme to describe animals like elephants and hippopotami. The French term derives from pachydermos, the Greek word for thick-skinned.

Want to find out where your company’s 2005 revenue came from? Good luck to you.

These days, employees feel increasingly confident that they can find anything, just as long as it’s external information. But if it’s right under their noses in their companies’ databases, their confidence will often be much lower. (And they will assume that it will take a lot longer to find it.) One obvious culprit is the massive quantity of internal or proprietary data that companies now stockpile—an amount that continues to grow 40-70 percent a year. As one analyst recently noted, “in the same way that consumers were set adrift in the early days of the Web, enterprises are now drowning in data sets of their own.”

Enter Google, which is now redoubling its efforts to do for internal information what it once did for the Internet. Below we offer excerpts from a few noteworthy articles that outline the company’s strategy to “go corporate”—and thus diversify away from its core search-advertising business, which currently drives 95 percent of its sales.

- In “Google shifts focus to show it means business,” Matthew Glotzbach, Google’s head of enterprise products, explains: "Companies have to deal with [internal content explosion] if they want to compete. Google wants to use its experience in web search to provide a ‘fast front door’ to that information – one that doesn’t require any special training for users."

- Quoted in another article, “Enterprise Search: A Different Animal,” Glotzback describes how Google’s search appliance allows administrators to select documents that will appear at the top of results for specific key words, not unlike the way Google.com returns a few paid listings at the top of natural search results. “It's almost like an internal ad.”

- In an interview with CIO Insight, Dave Girouard, general manager of the enterprise business, describes the fruits of his customer research: “When you put Google inside a company…There's almost a sigh of relief that now they'll be able to find their information. For us, that is always the most important thing—how well does it solve the problem for the end-user.”

- Finally, in “Google dodges knowledge management question,” you’ll see Google product marketing manager Arvind Desikan do just that. However, Desikan does mention a couple of potential case studies worth tracking, "We appear to have served the knowledge management needs of several large companies to date, including BA and Schlumberger."

Posted by James Wilson at 12:17 AM | Permalink | TrackBacks (1)

February 04, 2006

You Know You Compete on Analytics When...

1. You apply sophisticated information systems and rigorous analysis not only to your core capability but also to a range of functions as varied as marketing and human resources.

2. Your senior executive team not only recognizes the importance of analytics capabilities but also makes their development and maintenance a primary focus.

3. You treat fact-based decision making not only as a best practice but also as a part of the culture that’s constantly emphasized and communicated by senior executives.

4. You hire not only people with analytical skills but a lot of people with the very best analytical skills—and consider them a key to your success.

5. You not only employ analytics in almost every function and department but also consider it so strategically important that you manage it at the enterprise level.

6. You not only are expert at number crunching but also invent proprietary metrics for use in key business processes.

7. You not only use copious data and in-house analysis but also share them with customers and suppliers.

8. You not only avidly consume data but also seize every opportunity to generate information, creating a “test and learn” culture based on numerous small experiments.

9. You not only have committed to competing on analytics but also have been building your capabilities for several years.

10. You not only emphasize the importance of analytics internally but also make quantitative capabilities part of your company’s story, to be shared in the annual report and in discussions with financial analysts.

These points are from my January 2006 HBR article- "Competing on Analytics."

Posted by Tom Davenport at 12:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (2)

October 11, 2005

Analyze This

I just wrote a short piece for CIO on business analytics.

One of the question I ask is - how do you know when you're there? In the article, I point to several indicators that a company is competing on analytics:

* The CEO has an analytical background. Harrah's Loveman was a business school professor and has an MIT PhD. Amazon's Bezos was an A-plus student in electrical engineering and computer science at Princeton. When the CEO or vice chair of a company is a rocket scientist, it's a good bet that there will be other scientists on the payroll.

* Nobody's asking about the ROI for each little initiative. What's at stake in analytical competition is not an application, but a corporate strategy. If the analytical activities are succeeding, they will be manifested not in ROI calculations, but in revenue and profits.

* The company is very successful. Certainly there are industries (for example, U.S. domestic airlines) where a lot of analytics don't seem to be the critical success factor. It isn't with Southwest. But the great majority of highly analytical companies that we studied are leaders in their industries and making lots of money.

As more analytically trained managers enter the workforce, it's likely that analytical competition will become more common and intense. However, this capability can't be developed overnight.

Most companies took at least five years to develop their analytical capabilities sufficiently to compete on that basis, and a couple of very successful companies (including Procter & Gamble and Mars) had been pursuing analytics for several decades. Assembling the right data, finding and using the right tools, and developing the right relationships between analysts and decision-makers all take time. Therefore, it makes sense to start pulling them together now.

History seems to be on the side of the numbers.

Posted by Tom Davenport at 10:31 AM | Permalink | TrackBacks (0)