Marketing & Advertising Future Companies Will Be Data Powered

Future Companies Will Be Data Powered


When we think about companies that will dominate or have already disrupted an industry, the likes of Google, Facebook, Uber and Netflix come to mind. Closer to home, Careem has done a great job of localizing an existing global business model. The common thread that makes all these companies successful is decision making powered by data.

However, when it comes to using data to drive a business’s decision making, the MENA region is still playing catch up. The key question is why this is the case and how it can be changed.

Why is data not powering business decision-making in MENA? In essence from what we see, most companies are doing a good job of collecting, processing and storing their own customer data but where it falls down in many cases is in the usage and application of the data to drive the business. We believe it can be fundamentally rationalized down to three key factors.

A Change In Organizational Structure: Most data across organizations typically resides with IT, whereas individuals who can most benefit from using this data for decision making, sit in other verticals such as marketing.

What we typically see here in MENA are organizational structures that have not evolved to take advantage of what’s possible in the age of Internet of Things. In many cases, IT controls data collection, management and usage across an organization. Without realizing it, they build walled gardens around data thus hampering smart use of it for decision making by the rest of the business.

Many organizations are investing in a Chief Data Officer. The CDO concept is not a new one but hasn’t seemed to have taken traction yet in the Middle East. They are in charge of figuring out how to use the information generated by the business, and sometimes how to create revenue streams from that data. Therefore the CDO’s role is to find new digital revenue and guide the organization from not knowing what they don’t know about data locked in their assets to actually doing something about it.

The CDO will allow other departments such as marketing to unlock the potential that resides in the data from creating micro-segmentation through to hyper-targeting. All with the purpose of delivering the right message, to the right audience at the right time, which will clearly have a positive return for the business.

Proper Investment in Data and Analytics (D&A): The advent of digital has created a tsunami of data but the value is in unlocking and turning this into insight and information. Many companies in MENA still do not prioritize this capability and end up resourcing it with unqualified talent laboring away in a corner without clear direction or scope. In some cases, companies that hire the right talent end up under-staffing the department, therefore spreading the D&A resources thin and making them largely ineffective.

First and foremost, it’s important to clearly define the role of the D&A function, as this will allow an organization to hire people with the right skillsets to help achieve the set objectives. A number-savvy marketer shifting internally might not be able to do the job – companies should be prepared to make radical changes to their staffing practices, as the profile of individuals they’ll need here will be different from what they have been used to hiring in the past.

Secondly, right-sizing your D&A department is essential. For instance, a D&A function of three individuals in an organization of 600 people will not be able to function effectively, given how thin they’ll be spread. It’s really a judgement call depending on how data rich your organization is but in essence, be realistic if you really want to drive change.

Lastly, in many organizations D&A ends up being staffed by junior to mid-level employees working in isolation. The result is a lack of authority to collect the relevant data internally or push for implementation of any recommendations based on analysis. Senior-management sponsorship i.e. CDO is key for D&A to succeed in an organization.

A Shift in Culture: Last but not least, all these changes may not bear fruit if the organization does not make a cultural shift from one that solves problems by depending on individual expertise to one that is agile enough to be objective and data driven.

Without this cultural shift and buy-in across the organization, you might find yourself sitting on the best data, with the best analysts using it to produce excellent insights that are not acted upon. How do you change behavior when you have decision makers who have been working the same way for many years? You not only have to train them to act and think differently, but also supplement their skills with new people from this new world thinking.

It is clear successful companies of the future will be powered by data and looking ahead, for companies to flourish in the Middle East there needs to be a step change in approach from knowing to learning.

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