Jim Sterne is the founder of the Marketing Analytics Summit (former eMetrics Summit) and co-founder and Board Chair of the Digital Analytics Association. An internationally known speaker and consultant, he is the author of numerous books, including Artificial Intelligence for Marketing, 101 Things You Should Know About Marketing Optimization Analysis, Social Media Metrics, and The Devil's Data Dictionary. He has spent more than 35 years selling and marketing technical products and has devoted all his attention to the Internet as a marketing medium since 1994.
J.S.: I believe it is the responsibility of the analyst to bring a new perspective. Let’s say that I have a business person who is making business decisions and trying to solve business problems. And then I have data scientists who are creating new models, using new kinds of marketing data that we’re collecting. And between the two, it’s the analyst who is taking a business problem and translating it into a marketing data problem. And taking a marketing data result and translating it into business insight.
J.S.: It is people, process, technology, and the process problem is that I get an analyst to sit between me, the business decision-maker, and the marketing data. It’s like “protect me from all the data. You go work the data and tell me what it says.”
Data in dashboards are facts, while data in analytics are clues. That is tough because analysts have to build their data pipelines, they have to integrate the marketing data, they have to transform it, then they have to produce dashboards, and make sure that they answer everybody’s ad-hoc questions.
If the analyst is busy and gets into the routine of the organization, they risk becoming report writers and dashboard builders. And that process doesn’t leave any room for data discovery.
J.S.: Another way of turning data into actionable insights is to blend business knowledge and technology data knowledge. We get so bogged down in processes, that we don’t get a chance to do that.
If I can get systems that can help me collect and manage the data and then turn it into the reports and dashboards that I need, it will free up my time so I can do creative analysis.
J.S.: The tough truth is that many analysts simply don’t have the time to sit back and wonder if it’s anything interesting in the data they are working with.
Sometimes is incredibly valuable to bring an external consultant to ask really basic questions and to look at the problem differently. Why did somebody ask for this for their dashboard? What problem are they trying to solve? The answer sometimes is: “I don’t know, my boss’ boss’ boss asked me to do all this work”. Getting an outside person who can poke around and bring clarity is helpful.