Shiny object syndrome: why marketers can’t forget people when making big data decisions

All this week Daniel Henriksen, technology and operations director, programmatic at OmnicomMediaGroup in Asia Pacific, is helping marketers diagnose whether they have shiny object syndrome, when it comes to data and analytics. The four aspects brands need to consider are reality, organization, people and process.

People

Having the right people are integral to growth and success. A phrase from Ernst & Young explains it very well:

“Making the most of the opportunities and competitive advantage that the analysis of big data can bring requires not just technology but the right people.”

This is true for almost any organization, and especially within media and marketing agencies (which I’m a part of), where knowledge and advisory are the two main products being delivered to customers daily. One could argue that the level of intangibility is heavily correlated with the importance of having the right talent and people, as emotional intelligence would be a more key factor rather than efficiency and standardization, which is needed for producing material goods.

As mentioned in the introduction, organizations can have access to an abundance of data and top notch technology, but without the right people, there is no one to interpret or make it actionable based on the objectives and goals of the company. Artificial intelligence and automation will do much for us in the future, but it doesn’t alleviate the need for critical thinking and team collaboration.

Here are a few things to consider around people, teams and leadership styles before proceeding with such projects:

Change Experience

Like organizations who have gone through change processes, it can also have an impact that the key people involved in specific projects have been in such situations previously. Being experienced can be a good thing, as the situation will feel more familiar and comfortable based on past experiences.

Making people accountable for important projects, such as integrating data and analytics into the organization without prior experience with change management can be dangerous. Not only would they need to be subject matter experts, but also be responsible for driving people forward with less knowledge and expertise.

This requires a lot of patience, effort and emotional intelligence, and it’s not something everyone is capable of. It is a paper-thin balance, as there are probably also many who have become demotivated and frustrated with too many changes and reorgs – especially within the media- and marketing industry with so many mergers and acquisitions happening each year. Identify key people with passion, experience and patience to lead the charge.

Leadership Styles

Many books on leadership have been written, and opinions on the right style of leadership styles are many. Different styles work for different types of organization, and leadership styles should be adapted to the demands of the situation, the requirements of the people involved and the challenges facing the organization.

Change is challenging for most, and the leadership style needed to drive change will vary. Tech or dot-com companies preaches agile project management processes such as SCRUM, or give individuals freedom to choose which projects they want to work on with the expectation that passion will drive innovation and higher quality work. For governments or financial institutions, giving too much freedom might be more challenging based on their infrastructural importance and societal obligation. This is not to say that governments or financial institutions can’t operate as start-ups when it comes to the style of leadership, this is just to state some added complexity and responsibilities which needs to be considered when going through change processes. The biggest government pension investment companies today are heavily depending on artificial intelligence and advanced analytics to make the smartest decisions around where to investment on the behalf of their members, but it has most likely also been a long and complex journey to adapt as an organization, and to figure out the balance between machine- and human decisioning when making substantial important investments on the behalf on an entire country.

Defining the right leadership style for the type of organization is critical for success, and becoming an analytics- and data-driven company requires strong leaders. Paraphrasing Ernst & Young again, a leader needs to know the business, focus on value, speak the right language and build strong relationships to drive effective change.

Talent Development & Retention

Having the right people and leaders is great, but if the organizations churn rate is through the roof, momentum will be hard to maintain, and the constant disruption will make it challenging to make effective change within teams and business functions. Talent development and retention is essential to grow, innovate and progress as a business, and empowering people to consistently deliver quality work through motivation and the right incentives is key. This is also a challenge for many companies, and especially within a fast-paced and emerging industry like media- and advertising, where people are notoriously tempted to switch companies and positions constantly, as there is a general lack of talent and know-how in the industry. This starts a bidding war between the largest technology companies trying to secure the best employees, massively inflating the market place for data and analytics talent with huge salaries and extraordinary benefits.

There is not necessarily anything wrong with this in a free liberal market, but it makes it hard for all types of organizations (government, NGOs, local businesses) to attract and retain the needed talent to start the journey of becoming a data-driven organization.

This is something that needs to be evaluated in the reality-assessment, which is the initial phase before starting projects around implementation of artificial intelligence and advanced data and analytics. If an organization is not able to compete for the top talent when it comes to base compensation, they must take an alternate route offering employees freedom, autonomy, decision-power and ability to make true change – which can be difficult if you are 1 of 50,000 people.

Daniel Henriksen is technology and operations director, programmatic at OmnicomMediaGroup.

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