In advance of the first Profusion Data Academy Business Leaders cohort we ran our proprietary data literacy test as a survey reaching 300 senior business professionals from multiple industry sectors.

The results – including a mean score of 34% – validate the rationale for the Profusion Data Academy.

There is an urgent need for businesses to improve their data literacy from top to bottom if they are to use the untapped power of data to grow their businesses.

There is no doubt that the Profusion data literacy test is a challenge (although we did also see high scores above 70%) as reflected in participant feedback:

“Real brain teaser”

“quite mind-blowing”

 “very informative”

“very interesting and challenging”

“ I learnt something new”

“thought-provoking”

The data literacy test includes 50 questions across eight distinct sections:

  • Statistics
  • Data Quality
  • Data Roles
  • Data Projects
  • Databases
  • Charts
  • Data Protection
  • Glossary of terms

For most participants the statistical section will be the most challenging, after all this is a specialised academic discipline, but also one that provides the essential foundation for all data analytics and data science projects and outputs, and one that links very directly to the charts section later in the test.

The test concludes by testing knowledge of data related terminology. This is critical for Business Leaders to have a handle on. If we are to truly democratise data within and across organisations then we need to establish a common language. A common language is a profoundly unifying force, the alternative is a private language (aka jargon) restricted to data specialists, which will only lead to the marginalisation of data initiatives.

To realise the potential and value of data to optimise business performance and operations, data initiatives and programmes need to be fully integrated with all aspects of the business strategy, and so clearly understood by all business stakeholders. This perspective is central to our approach to the Data Academy – empowering all business stakeholders with a foundational understanding of data.

Additional Insights

When we look more closely at our benchmarking data there are some interesting insights arising:

  • Chief Executives underperform relative to MDs and their leadership and management peers
  • Directors scored highest overall relative to CEOs, MDs, Exec Leaders and Senior Managers
  • Medium size businesses underperform relative to small businesses and enterprises
  • Operational leaders and managers outperform their office (Finance, HR, Marketing etc.) peers
  • Retail leaders underperform relative to other industrial segments

Of Charts and Business Intelligence

Interestingly the Charts section was the one area where Executive Leaders and CEOs outperformed their peers, suggesting that Business Intelligence solutions are both pervasive and having a positive impact on the ability to interpret and to interrogate data, both vital ingredients for quick and effective data informed decision making.

The Squeezed Middle

There is an interesting suggestion within the study findings that it is medium sized organisations who face the biggest challenges with data literacy. Our hypothesis is that they are caught between the two extremes of small and start-up business passion and enterprise training resources. This is a critical constituency for UK PLC and one that we can’t afford to leave behind on our data journey.

Age is no guide to Data Literacy

The stand-out, counter-intuitive, finding from our research was that respondents aged 45+ outperformed those aged under 45, with the 45-54 cohort the highest performers overall.

This finding may well challenge organisational assumptions as to where they need to focus their investments in data literacy. It is however entirely consistent with the performance of the Senior Managers in our survey and suggests that there is something of a disconnect between Directors and their team leaders – the very people we need to have on-board if we’re going to align their direct reports with our data transformation agenda.

In terms of age it is too easy to assume that just because younger people are Digital Natives and will have grown up immersed in digital media they will naturally be data literate and have a good understanding of how digital platforms and services work. The simple fact is that this is a false assumption – there is a huge difference between being an experienced service user and a capable service designer. For every 100 gamers there may only be a handful of coders and a similar number that are data literate.

At the older end of the spectrum, the Digital Adopters, you might argue that we (yep, this includes me) have long been aware of the gulf between our foundational experiences and the demands of the digital world. As such we have taken the time and made the effort to update our skills and understanding, in the hope that this might secure our working futures in this fast changing industry.

The Retail frontline

To pick out one other finding from the research, the under-performance of retail respondents in the benchmarking study was both notable and alarming. Alarming because retail has long been in the frontline of data driven digital disruption, including the rise of both ecommerce and DTC commerce. Notable because retail respondents under-performed the mean score by circa 20%.

If retail business leaders are struggling with data literacy then they aren’t going to be well placed to lead the transformative changes required for survival and success in these cut-throat industries.

In conclusion

This was a fascinating study.  One that provides Profusion with great collateral to underpin our exciting plans for the Data Academy. Most importantly we hope it acts as a call to arms for organisations of all sizes and types. Whatever the short-term dynamics of the labour market, we know that the only way to raise real incomes is to improve the UK’s dire record on productivity.

Some people refer to the UK experiencing a Data Skills Emergency, highlighting the inefficiencies and time lost due to poor data skills. This benchmarking study quantifies and pinpoints exactly where the gaps in knowledge are most profound, making it an essential tool in any organisation’s data literacy tool kit.

For further information on the Profusion Data Academy please contact Profusion via hello@profusion.com

As a small SME, we do all we can to make a difference not only in our day to day work, but also to influence our sector, supply chain and our employee’s personal lives as we take sustainability seriously at Profusion. To celebrate Earth Day this year, we’ve decided to create a guide to being a more sustainable company so the question is…

What can you do to help our earth?

1. Have a green supply chain

We try to consider the environment in everything we do and it all starts with having a sustainable supply chain. We look to procure from reputable companies only, ensuring they have strong environmental commitments and they consider the human impact of their products’ journey. We also take pride in the fact that our suppliers are committed to equality and diversity as it is a key part of what we stand for and who we are as a company.

2. Embed sustainability into your employees’ lives

At Profusion, we like to do this by providing ethical products for our staff, down to the last coffee bean, beers and of course the bigger picture. We use sustainable caterers and social enterprises for events, and we make sure to recycle like it’s an extreme sport!

3. Create policies

Creating an environmental policy is a great way to start embedding sustainability into every day working life. Reducing printing, becoming paperless, saving energy and water, cycling to work and using ethical suppliers are just a few of Profusion’s environmental policies.

4. Do your bit!

Our philanthropic foundation, Profusion Cares, has a pillar called ‘Living by Example’. This pillar is dedicated to all things sustainability and manages our company wide activities, including couch to carbon zero, that led Profusion to rank in the top 20% globally in the Eco Vadis assessment and our recent challenge, The Big Plastic Count.

The challenge consists of counting household plastic – the clue is in the name! The Big Plastic Count is taking place from 16th-22nd of May, and you can get involved and do your bit by signing up for the count.

Stress Awareness Week 2022

Anne Huber, Chief of Staff, Profusion

Definitions

Before we get started with my personal reflections and the lessons that I can share on managing stress it’s important that we define our terms and have a shared understanding of what stress is. Turning to a dictionary we find that stress is defined as

 ‘a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’.

I’m sure most of us can relate to that definition, it feels intuitive and right, and it is broadly replicated by healthcare providers including the NHS[1]. Yet I would encourage you to step back and consider this alternative[2]

‘Stress is a physical and emotional reaction that people experience as they encounter changes in life’.

Why do I prefer that approach? To me, it makes clear that stress is a perfectly natural physiological response to change. You can think of it as an evolutionary tool designed to help homo sapiens respond more effectively to challenges.

It sits well with the idea that there is such a thing as healthy, positive, beneficial stress and that problems only arise when stress persists over the long term.  Ultimately we all need to remember one simple fact –

‘stress is a normal feeling…….stress is something everyone feels at times’

Formative experiences

Handling and coping with stress is something that we learn over time and most importantly through experience. It is often exacerbated when we feel alone, away from familiar circumstances and of course, people that we love, trust or rely on for support. For me personally, my experiences as an international student were hugely stressful at the time but have stood me in good stead ever since.  

Anyone who has experienced the bureaucracy surrounding higher education and the challenges of cross-border learning will know that this is no picnic when you are a long way from home. When I first encountered these issues as an undergraduate in France it felt overwhelming, but of course, I did come through it and when I experienced similar issues as a master’s student in Poland I was much more sanguine and confident that everything would work out. Which it did!

While stress is for many people today (exclusively) attached to work and study we should always be aware that if that is the case then we are the lucky ones. For too many people stress permeates every aspect of their lives. Think of those living with long term illness or impairments, caring responsibilities, low incomes or complex family situations. All managers should be sensitive to the range of external factors that can impact their students or colleagues.

My Top Tips

1. Accept that it is OK to feel stressed. It means that you care. It doesn’t make you a failure, you can and should own up to stress.

2. We need to be aware that persistent stress can have significant negative long term health impacts, we need to take it seriously, learning to identify our personal signals.

3. Given that everyone experiences stress we need to develop our own armour, by which I mean the daily techniques and tactics that work to destress us. It can be as simple as writing a list or going for a walk in the park.

4. We need to practice our destressing techniques regularly, not allowing things to get on top of us before we pay attention, spot the signs, take the steps, see what works best for you.

5. Build networks you can rely on at home and professionally. Know that there are people you can turn to. So much stress develops in isolation. Communication really is critical to perspective and context. This cuts both ways – be part of other people’s networks too.

6. Slightly more professional this one but when it comes to planning projects, workflows or similar always assume that everything that can go wrong will go wrong and most probably that they will all go wrong at the same time as a domestic drama takes hold. In that spirit you will build time and contingencies into your project plans not an unworldly idealised timeline that leaves you chasing the clock and feeling stressed from the very start.

7. Understand what brings you joy and try to build those elements into your routines. We all need balance in our lives so embrace the things and people you enjoy and make sure to make time for them.

8. While so much stress comes from unexpected events and circumstances there is a fair amount that we can anticipate and plan around. If you’re in finance you know the year end is going to be tough, so plan ahead, making sure that you have time to relax.

9. Take regular breaks including proper holidays as well as long weekends, integrate breaks into your daily routine. If your baseline is close to zero then you have bandwidth to spare.

10. In a world obsessed with speed and busyness it is vital that you take time. Stress corrodes our mental bandwidth, meaning that we rush into poor decisions. Take a step back, consider your options, have a cup of tea.

11. If in doubt, break out of your bubble and ask a colleague for a sanity check, brainstorm or some sparring. It helps to get others involved. The goal is always to resolve issues and learn from those difficult situations.

12. However, if you can’t deal with the situation at all, remove yourself from it. Hand it over to someone else (e.g., your line manager, colleague, partner, friend). Recognise that we all have limits.  Make sure you hand over everything you know about the situation at hand and the person taking over might even be impressed by how well you briefed them.

Last word

Give yourself a break, too many of us feel compelled to pursue supposed ideals in terms of efficiency, productivity and the like, but we are all human, we can all break and we all need to learn to look after ourselves – for the good of all.

Also, remember that there has never been a better time to be open about your experiences and feelings. Our culture is changing for the better, the stiff upper lip is no longer a good look!

Try to always learn from situations good and bad, these are the experiences that will inform your response to the next challenge and will improve your self-understanding.

Embrace stress but also embrace difference, we all handle things in different ways, there is generally not a right or wrong approach. Some colleagues like to step out for some fresh air, some for a beer and others for a cigarette.

 Hang on, no, don’t do that, do not swap stress for nicotine, that is definitely not right!


[1] https://www.nhs.uk/every-mind-matters/mental-health-issues/stress/

[2] https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/stress

5 modules that deliver outstanding ROI for your customers and how they work

Hear from the experts who designed Ai Marketer, a cutting edge ML tool that can enhance your customer strategies. Learn about the science that went into developing the tool and how it has helped our clients to engage their customers and increase revenue. Check out the webinar on-demand now:

Interested in Ai Marketer? Get in touch with us: hello@profusion.com

Thank you to our speakers:

Henrik Nordmark, Director of Science, Data and Innovation

Alistair Dent, Chief Strategy Officer

Juan Pablo Equihua, Research Fellow

Jack Knowd, Senior Campaign Manager at Profusion

How much time do you spend on your mobile phone in a day? If you’re anything like me, probably quite a lot. I recently looked at my daily screen time and let me tell you – I wasn’t proud of it.

It can be incredibly easy to pick up your phone and find yourself thinking 15 minutes later, why did I pick it up again? If this sounds like you, then you’re not alone. The global pandemic has forced us to stay indoors for a large part of the last couple of years, leaving us with not much else to do except mindlessly scroll and stare at our screens. And let’s face it, remote working has meant that we feel more comfortable and inclined to pick up our phones throughout the day. On average most people check their phones 58 times a day and thirty of those times are during work hours. In April 2020, during the first lockdown, the average mobile phone user spent a quarter of their waking time on their mobile device, that’s 4.3 hours!

So what? Why am I telling you all this? Well, all this increase in screen time from consumers is not going unnoticed by businesses. SMS has long been neglected by marketers but its potential is only starting to get fully realised. A recent report from Forrester Research highlighted that 2021 was the year that consumers will have received the most marketing texts from brands as they try to develop more direct relationships with customers amid the pandemic and economic fallout.

Whilst email is still widely considered to be king when it comes to digital marketing, SMS is continuing to put up a fight for the crown. We all know the capabilities of email and how personalised and tailored it can be, but there is an argument to be made that receiving an SMS from a company feels more personal.

This is backed up by a recent study from eMarketer that highlighted SMS was the most preferred channel by consumers receiving updates from brands at 48%, while email was 22%. With all this in mind, it’s not surprising then that over 60% of marketers planned to increase their budget for SMS. It is steadily becoming a channel that is coming into the forefront of marketing teams strategies for the future.

SMS has long lived in the shadow of email as a channel, but why?

Here are 7 benefits to adopting SMS in your marketing strategy:

  1. Huge engagement and ROI

Recent stats have proven that SMS marketing has much better engagement than email. The open rate for text message campaigns is 98% and the click-through rate is 19%.

2. Transactional

You can send follow up text messages to customers if they have bought a product with details on their shipping/delivery.

3. Integrated with email automation journeys

SMS can add another layer of communication into your email journeys, send that welcome text message after the email a couple of days later!

4. Service / Mandatory updates

Need to update your customers with an urgent message, SMS is faster at sending mass messages than email and will be read more as well.

5. Faster to action and execute

SMS is undoubtedly the most efficient and quick to set up and execute compared to channels like email and direct mail.

6. Feels personal
SMS can feel like a more personal way of communication for customers, as it is delivered to their phone. It also allows two-way messaging so great for customer support.

7. Easy to Opt-in / Opt-out for customers
Listing the ease of opt-out for a customer might seem odd, however it is just as easy for customers to opt-in using SMS as well. This increases customer satisfaction and improves loyalty knowing that they have an exit route if they wish to stop receiving messages.

So when you’re planning your next marketing strategy, remember to not get left behind and include SMS.

Oh and if you were wondering how many hours I had spent procrastinating while writing this blog, well… you don’t want to know!

For consultancy and expert advice all things SMS, contact us at: hello@profusion.com

Admin Profusion| January 24, 2022

Sign up to our Data Literacy: the key to powerful decision making webinar.

Back in October 2021, we introduced the results of the first Profusion UK Data Literacy Benchmarking Study. We surveyed over 300 Business Professionals ranging from CEOs to Senior Managers and saw a mean score of 34% – which included some excellent scores of above 70%.

The low average score should come as little surprise to experienced data leaders and professionals, after all, issues with data literacy are widely recognised as a barrier to the successful datafication of organisations of all types and sizes.

At the same time the last two, pandemic blighted, years have highlighted the critical importance of digital connections and data-informed decision making, data literacy and digital skills are now widely recognised as critical to business agility, competitiveness, resilience and success.

So where is the urgency in addressing this situation? How many organisations have prioritised data literacy for 2022? How many have established training programmes for their teams? How many are working to effectively integrate their data teams with their core business teams?

It can be too easy to assume on the one hand that data literacy is a highly specialised skill set, the domain of mathematicians, statisticians and data scientists, or on the other hand that data literacy comes naturally, especially to younger people, as a result of their digital behaviours.

The reality is that you can see issues with data literacy everywhere you look, whether it is the Cabinet debating new Covid restrictions, trade envoys quoting college students[1], salespeople grappling with research results, or even debates over the meaning of weather forecasts. As a result, time is wasted, poor decisions are made, and your feet might get wet.

Complementing our own research findings, work by Data IQ in partnership with Multiverse, showed that poor data literacy is a direct cost for organisations today. Their 2021 research paper suggested that 1 in every 11 minutes of UK company time is currently spent on attempting data tasks unproductively. Put another way 8.5% of annual revenues are lost to the data & digital skills gaps.

And that is arguably the tip of the iceberg – these are at least people who are actively engaging with data and attempting (if failing as yet) to make the best use of it. There are other people, often in more senior roles, who are in denial about the role and potential for data use within their organisation.

Such fear-driven denial of the opportunity for data analytics can have a catastrophic impact on the health and future of their organisations. After all not doing anything is a decision, an active choice, it has consequences across the organisation.

Fear manifests itself in different ways. The positive response from business leaders is to recruit the best talent available to establish and lead a data analytics function – and leave them to get on with it. Yet we are increasingly seeing that such an approach only kicks the can down the road – the leaders themselves must have a working knowledge of the data domain in order to evaluate that team.

And that is where the Profusion Data Academy can play a crucial role. Our Executive boot camps are designed to fast track Execs into the world of data. By the end of the course, they won’t be data scientists – but they will be fluent in the most important terms and concepts required for success.

Armed with this knowledge they will then be equipped to tackle the data team on their terms, to ensure that data initiatives and projects are properly aligned to business priorities and strategy, and to enable and support the data teams’ integration with business teams and internal functions.

So, the best resolution you can make for 2022? Make data literacy a leading organisational priority – and check out how the Profusion Data Academy can help to meet your needs!


[1] https://fullfact.org/economy/brazil-food-production-marco-longhi/

Stream the session live now

Data represents a goldmine for businesses who understand it. Focusing on data literacy can literally transform your business.​

Listen to Natalie Cramp, CEO, Profusion and our special guests to discover the shocking revelations our data literacy benchmarking study has revealed.

Thank you to our speakers:

Natalie Cramp, CEO at Profusion

Michael Brennan, Data Protection Officer at Profusion

Darren Robertson, Head of Data Strategy at Save the Children

Faris Aranki, CEO & Founder at Shiageto Consulting

Take the mini quiz now and test your data literacy levels.

Download the summary infographic here.

Find out more about how we can help you solve the data literacy problems in your organisation by getting in touch with us.

    Download our State of Data Literacy Infographic

    Admin Profusion| December 14, 2021

    A blog by Camilla Hasler, Partnerships Sales Manager at Profusion

    I’ve seen several recent articles and Whitepapers which have criticized the usefulness and relevance of data dashboards for today’s businesses. So in this blog, I aim to share in what way I feel that this criticism may be from those who are less aware that today’s AI-infused, augmented Dashboards offer huge potential with adding analytics to where it is most useful. This is based on my data industry experience earlier and also currently at Profusion. I hope to provide some useful factors for others to consider for the next time they are doing a data analytics review. But most importantly I would like to offer some advice to those looking to create the most optimal dashboards for their business.

    The first digital dashboards featured in the Aston Martin Lagonda, in the late 1970s where they replaced the traditional dials. So Dashboards have been around in various parts of our lives for some time. For the past seven years, I have worked with clients in detail with the primary aim of helping these companies and brands to get better and more tangible results with data. Dashboards have been around in the industry come a long way in my view, in the past 5-7 years from when businesses were provided with fairly static and simple dashboards in their data platforms and expected clients to work with those insights. 

    Now that we have augmented, AI-infused dashboards so that we don’t even need much data experience to interpret the data. The insights can be in the format of a dashboard or within that user-specific workflow for example in Instant Messaging. Now viewers can choose to look at one widget or chart or twelve again by preference and according to their needs as a portable widget in their favorite CRM or social media platform. These Data charts can be available on a mobile device and apps in a dashboard too from any source. These are features are all widely available within the Sisense Embedded analytics software platform.

    When Category, eCommerce, and insight teams all have different priorities it does seem hard to believe that the best way to serve and support each team is a templated or preset dashboard. It is worth saying that there was a time that I too believed and accepted the limitation that data tools with preset dashboards were the best analytic offering that could be provided for clients. Thinking that if the data itself was collected robustly from a quality source then it could be transformed & interpreted through manual input into slide decks. Like many, I had accepted and even allowed time and resources to work with raw data or to create, update and review simple dashboards.

    I did not know at this time about the potential and ease with which, with expertise Dashboards could be customized. I give this example to show that in any review it helps to have a lot of perspective from those who have wider dashboard and analytics experience in the industry. As Angela Merkel once said: “For me, it is always important that I go through all the possible options for a decision.” But also, that more importantly, it was about a more simple, seamless shift away from working with any individual existing data sets to combining these and then using the power of embedded software to do this within my existing platform. Sometimes the effort for companies to adopt another new platform was adding complexity to an already loaded schedule of cross-platform reviews. It was perhaps a step-change too far, from the data reporting that we all knew and were familiar with.

    Here are my top tips for the optimal Dashboards:

    1. Consider what data you have and the data you’d like to make more accessible? What formats is this data in? Is this structured or unstructured raw data? What state is this data in, will it need Data Cleaning and modelling?

    2. How many people in your company would you like to view data and how many would you like to be able to design and update it. Note this does not have to be only those in IT and technical roles. The right analytics platform will allow more than just technical people to create charts and dashboards.

    3. Where does your key analytics workforce spend most of their time, which platform, or messaging apps?

    4. What are your overall user groups for the dashboard? Clients or internal colleagues? Are you looking to create a summary dashboard for multiple teams or the exec or other teams? Remember you don’t have to cram all of your insights into one Dashboard.

    5. Create a priority for your dashboard creation and build. What are the key business challenges, questions, and gaps in your company’s and team analytics and insight today? This may be from internal or from client feedback. Another way to approach this is where is the time going today in regular reporting. You may need to do a quick survey of how many reports are being run and consider those which take the most time and are mostly used internally. Ultimately what’s the priority?

    For more tips and info like that above please reach out to me on LinkedIn and see the www.profusion.com website.

    If companies spend time reacting, anticipating, and predicting B2B and B2C client needs, a better way is to support many companies is to create the data dashboards for their specific use cases and questions within broader limits. By doing this we create freedom for companies to choose view by team and role, to then continue after to update and combine their data and dashboards. Data is an ever-evolving mass of information and similarly, a dashboard can be outdated almost as soon as we apply and leverage it.

    So, this is where the potential of Real-time dashboard analysis becomes very relevant. Since working in my Partnership role with Sisense I am more aware that there is a need for functionality and data analytics options amongst insight leaders and creators. That this is about empowering clients and enabling end-users to achieve more and take critical decisions to have the functionality to take action right alongside that data dashboard.

    It is also worth noting that in any analytics platform review, most companies will want to benchmark options. But certainly, from my perspective knowing the available data analysis options, I can’t think of many reasons why if budget permits, I would want to choose a platform with fewer or more limited analysis views for my organization.

    As David Suzuki said: We must reinvent a future free of blinders so that we can choose from real options.

    Guests – Robert Bates, Head of Decision Sciences, Currys & Chris Parker, Insights Director, Gymshark

    Plus Scott Castle, VP/GM, Internal Analytics in Products, Sisense

    Host: Natalie Cramp, Profusion CEO

    When – Tuesday 02 Nov 13.00 GMT

    Big thanks to our partners at Sisense and to Scott Castle in particular, and special thanks to our webinar guests Chris Parker of Gymshark and Robert Bates of Currys (the business formerly known as Dixons Carphone Warehouse) who provided a fascinating overview of the role of data in their businesses.

    We touched on a number of subjects close to Profusion’s heart – not least the challenge of data literacy, so critical to cascading data to the front line and empowering decision making at all levels.

    At the heart of this session was the relationship between traditional sources of insight and the growing role of data and augmented analytics. Of course this isn’t and should never be an either/or. Both have profoundly important roles to play in sustaining and growing a successful business.

    —–

    Decision problems

    Robert Bates set the scene for us, arguing that businesses today don’t have a data problem per se, they have more data than they know what to do with, the issue they have is a decisioning problem.

    Understanding the importance of the relationship between business stakeholders and analytics, Currys have identified the critical importance of data translators and are investing in their capacity to translate business questions into the analytics space alongside an increased focus on systems thinking.

    We have spoken before of the need for actionable insights – Robert added to that with reference to the levers that a business can pull, emphasising that we need to focus our analytical efforts on the things that we can change – using the levers in our organisational arsenal.

    Both lines of thought only emphasise the importance of aligning and embedding data analytics in the organisational context, understanding the nature of the system/s in play and the constraints and possibilities for action.

    A really interesting insight from Scott was the fact that, as Gartner report, only 30% of employees within organisations are touched by data analytics. If we are to move forward effectively that needs to change, we need to get data to the frontline to effectively support decision making, including among customer support and service personnel.

    Effectively the brain’s trust at the centre of the organisation must be complemented by effective processes for disseminating data to where it can make the most positive impact.

    —–  

    Why augmented analytics?

    The promise of augmented analytics as elucidated by Scott Castle, is to help businesses to shift the Business Intelligence lens from a rearview, retrospective, what just happened, approach, to a forward-facing function, anticipating future changes and trends and enabling the business to respond.

    Augmented analytics is increasingly critical to success due to the sheer volume of data now being handled. Using automated data ingestion and ML and AI techniques to surface patterns in the data will enable you to move faster and more effectively than human operators possibly can.

    Augmented analytics promises to accelerate decision making by transforming raw data and rapidly surfacing exceptions, anomalies, outliers and trends  through the use of ML and statistical techniques.

    The approach and decisions made on the back of such insights is what will set businesses apart.

    —-

    Abstracting ourselves to death?

    One of the concerns surrounding this level of automation is whether we risk abstracting people out of the equation, of dehumanising our brands and businesses, of losing sight of the end customer in all their messy, glorious, infuriating, human complexity?

    Scott made two very good points in response to that question, the first is especially important in the context of cascading data to the frontline of customer service and support.

    In that scenario the aggregate, quantitative view surfaced by augmented analytics can be used to enrich and inform individual (qualitative) customer conversations by contextualising their circumstances and experiences against the wider dataset, moving us forward from empathy (not that empathy should be taken for granted) to a data-informed dialogue.

    —-

    Getting the balance right

    The second point sat well with the wider discussion as to the relationship between research and data.

    For Scott it is critical that analysts and marketers don’t get too comfortable with the view from their best and most engaged customers but rather work to reach those prospects who may have dropped out of the process, or lapsed customers, to gain alternative perspectives and insights.

    For Robert at Currys, this is consistent with an approach that seeks to fill the gaps in our understanding by reaching out to external, alternative data sources beyond our proprietary holdings. That could require primary research, access to external datasets, horizon scanning (trends) or similar.

    Most important here is the appreciation that our data does not always hold all of the answers and we must be willing to go elsewhere to develop our understanding.

    Chris at Gymshark was very clear that in his view data is fantastic in addressing the here and now with real-time data flows critical to dynamic optimisation. However, when it comes to brand building and story-telling, real-time data is far from the vital ingredient. What is needed here are direct stakeholder conversations, with a skilled researcher able to elicit deeper insights into motivations and needs.

    There is also a concern that with a singular focus on data we will only ever cater to the mainstream, the norms, the status quo. That is the nature of patterns of course. If we are to reach out to outsiders or to think about what comes next we need a more finely hewn lens, we need to dig into the experiences of minority audiences – especially critical in terms of inclusion.

    The vexed question of intuition

    Inevitably we come to the relationship between data and intuition. Chris of Gymshark explained how his business works to combine these two approaches under the umbrella of ‘focused intuition’, something akin to the famous Netflix mantra of ‘informed intuition’, and an approach that helps the business to retain its entrepreneurial culture, and edge, by encouraging people to find the human moments of truth that can then be optimised at scale by leveraging data analytics.

    Within this approach data is used to effectively create shortlists of possible actions, to set parameters rather than prescriptions for decision making, enabling intuition to inform the final course of action.

    For Robert at Currys retaining at least this level of intuition ‘is what keeps us creative’ while explaining that this speaks to the ‘dark arts’ of retail which has always combined analytics with experience, instinct and intuition. These are the elements that truly differentiate businesses, that can add that touch of sparkle that makes them stand out from the crowd.

    As we know this is exactly the challenge now being discussed across the CX field, when everyone is optimising to the same standards of CX how do we differentiate our propositions, how do we cut through to the consumer and earn their business, perhaps even their loyalty?

    Robert went on to make a very powerful point – why is it that we are so keen to allow machine learning and other AI techniques to learn from their experience and to follow their informed instincts, but we want to deny human agents the same capacity?

    —-

    Wrapping up

    In summary this was a really interesting discussion, massively benefiting from the frontline retail experience of Chris and Robert complemented by the analytical insights and expertise provided by Scott at Sisense. If you’ve not yet listened to the webinar you can access the recording on-demand here. Trust me we’ve barely scratched the surface of the discussion here.

    A guest blog by Anne Spackman, Non-Executive Director at Profusion.

    Please decline the Latin…

    I was recently a guinea pig for Profusion’s new data literacy tool. It forms part of a Data for Leaders programme launching early next year from the Profusion Data Academy.

    If I’d done a similar assessment 15 years ago when becoming Editor-in-Chief of Times Digital, I would scarcely have reached the bottom rung of the knowledge ladder. Put in charge of a multi-million-pound digital project, I happened to be fluent in a couple of foreign languages, but spoke scarcely a word of tech: a wireframe was a basket for hens’ eggs.

    This time was different. Sampling the first Data for Leaders’ sessions had introduced concepts like data lakes, SQL and the difference between data science and data engineering. (That’s important if you’re an HR Director working out who to hire.) Session questions to reinforce our learning, plus the literacy analysis tool, not only anchored the new language in my ageing memory, but revealed a lack of precision in some areas of understanding, which was equally valuable.

    Britain is struggling with an acute shortage of data scientists, engineers, analysts and almost every other job role demanding technological expertise. At the same time, large numbers of capable workers in sectors like retail and finance have lost their jobs as the world turns increasingly digital. You can’t become a data scientist overnight, but you can apply for, say, an account manager, human resources or events role in the technology sector – if you understand what the business does.

    The former Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, is campaigning for more Latin to be taught in state secondary schools. As a language graduate – though one who had to choose between Latin and German at school – I understand his motivation. But this doesn’t feel like the most urgent education issue of the day.

    Even the digitally-native young are not experts in the language of artificial intelligence, machine learning and the data world which underpins both. Please can we have a campaign to teach tech, the most critical science and language of the early 21st century?