ESCP Europe Business School


Date: 28 June 2012, 9.30 am - 5.00 pm
Location: ESCP Europe London Campus

Panel Synopses

Panel 1: How to be creative at getting value from big data

Ben Voyer, Visiting Professor (London School of Economics) launched the discussion by asking how data can help businesses in engaging and in creating a dialogue with customers. Fundamentally, personal data such as age, gender, marital status can reveal a lot about someone's behaviour, as explained by Mark Boyt (Xerox). The discussion was centred around the fact that we are all connected all the time with the rise of smartphone usage. Apps on smartphones are now one of the ways to connect with consumers and huge amount of data can be extracted from the usage of apps. Traditionally, implicit messages were extracted from customer data, nowadays explicit messages can be received directly and commonly from customers voicing themselves through social media and the fact that everyone is connected all the time.

The next discussion theme was around content creativity. The issue is, how businesses can communicate more creatively with the help of data in an environment in which customers are demanding more. Peter Abraham (Econsultancy) emphasized on the vast opportunities available for communication both offline and online. The bar for communication content has definitely been raised. As mentioned before, apps are vastly used these days and because the smartphone is a personal device, the app is a very personalised communication tool. When a customer uses an app, they are essentially engaging with the company. Peter Abraham also emphasized the importance of aligning the relevance of channel and content with the target customer. Mark Boyt further commented by saying that the conversation of relevance can change in a moment of time and place; that context is very relevant in determining relevance. As Max Jolly (dunnhumby) said, the bar is raising but there is still scope to differentiate by doing it really well.

The panel discussion concluded with a discussion around the future of data. As data privacy and restriction laws and regulations are getting more rigid, Max Jolly shared his thoughts that marketers will need to educate customers on how the company is using data. Google is a particularly good example for this. The ethical use of data is predicted to be the next big issue. There is also the issue of companies collecting a lot of data but the market does not see a lot of personalised products. Feedback from the panel on that issue include companies not being able to see the value created by these data and there is a lack of understanding of how marketers can use these data. Marie Taillard (ESCP Europe) suggested a further potential issue of breaking consumers' trust if information collected is not fully utilised.



Panel 2:Building great creative analytical teams

What aspect does creativity add to analytics?

Judy Bayer (Teradata): It is qualitative and adds a huge amount of added value. It is incremental. Creativity makes every team richer and more diversified in ideas because of the different skills the team members have. Only creative organizations or organizations which have a creative approach will be leaders.

Nick Moodie (eBay): I think creativity comes in when big data is analyzed. You have to ask the right questions, which will then help you to get the interpretation and conclusion right.

Edouard Servan-Schreiber (10gen): Creativity is always needed since math is only a part of analytics. You want to get closer to the customer's mind - be able to break it down and quantify it.

Jérôme Couturier (3H Partners): There is no analytics without creativity - it is a must, not an option. To make sense of all the mass of big data, creativity must be applied.

Audience member: Often when you ask an analyst, there is either a wrong or a right answer - which is often not correct and you have to look at the whole picture (creatively!)

Judy Bayer: There is a new trend in society - everyone wants to network and people are collaborating on every level. Therefore society is moving and enabling the process that analytics will be moving towards a collaborative fashion as well.

Audience member: Do you think that there are enough institutions at the moment which are teaching and enabling this combination of creativity with analytics?

Judy Bayer: There are a few programmes developed but mostly not since the institutions are still lacking interest.

Edouard Servan-Schreiber: No!

Chris Halliburton (ESCP Europe): Since the amounts of data have increased so rapidly it is now becoming self-evident that creativity is needed to solve analytical problems, right?

Edouard Servan-Schreiber: I do not think it is dependent on how much and how complex the data is, creativity is required for analytics - big or small.

Judy Bayer: It is a task for management to implement this principle of operation into everyday life whether you are dealing with a huge amount of data or not.

Laurence Clavere (ESCP Europe): What is the role and use of big data in product development in your point of view? Is there a big demand for big data from the product marketing itself?

Jérôme Couturier: Back in the old days, companies used to believe that they understood the market and its demands better and knew what was needed, but now companies aim to be closer to the customer and need the data and information from the customer's own behavior to improve and satisfy customer needs and to develop the right products.

Nick Moodie: Yes and you have to analyze the behaviours to be able to draw conclusions regarding what consumers are missing.



Panel 3: Ethical and privacy issues around creative uses of Big Data

Participants in Panel 3 included Duncan Ross (Teradata), Anthony Rimmer (Agile Customer Insights), Tom Van Laer (ESCP Europe) and Peter Stephenson-Wright (ESCP Europe).  The discussion revolved around the value that Big Data can bring to consumers and more generally to society.  This question puts the onus on analysts and marketers to think creatively about how they can improve lives in a way that is ethical, relevant to individuals and society at large, and does not violate consumers' privacy. Relevance here can be in terms of lifestyle, convenience and other benefits but also in terms of access to sensitive information.  Much of this relevance also comes from a trade-off between on the one hand, how much information is captured and the associate privacy and ethical issues and on the other hand, what the information is used for.  Trust can only be built between consumers and analysts (and the marketers using the data), if there is transparency between what is captured, why it is captured and how it will be used.

Some interesting points were raised:

(1)   The government captures much more data than it is able to process and could make great strides towards solving economic challenges if it were to better use captured data

(2)   Giving greater access to data to a wider range of people who can analyze it productively can potentially increase the value of the data at the same time as promoting greater transparency.

(3)   The crowdsourcing and philanthropic efforts discussed earlier in the day in the presentations by Nicolas de Cordes, Orange France Telecom and Duncan Ross, Teradata, were excellent examples of the potential societal value that can be extracted from data if the right framework is put into place, e.g., clear value objectives, broad access, purging data of any sensitive and irrelevant information and strong privacy parameters.

(4)   These "out of the box" uses of Big Data can also lead to the development of innovative, valuable and ethical analytical practices to be used in both the private and public sectors



Panel 4: Creativity in Big Data helps avoid "analysis paralysis"

Panel 4 discussants included Max Ciferri (3H Partners), Darren Oddie (Agile Customer Insights), Laure Reillier (eBay) and Sabine McNeill (3D Metrics).  The discussion started with a reaffirmation of the conference's main theme: creativity is crucial to the productive use of Big Data and necessary to afford better marketing insights.  The panel then went on to discuss another, often overlooked, dimension in the role of creativity, its role in the decision-making process.  In this role, creativity plays an important role in avoiding the "analysis paralysis" syndrome that results from too much data being easily accessible by untrained marketing specialists, or even by senior decision-makers.  Not only does data need to be accessible, it needs to be made intelligible in a way that makes managers able to interpret it appropriately, in order to be able to use it effectively to make informed decisions.

The ability to interpret data, to apply common sense and to triangulate it with different types of customer insights requires creativity.  One panellist described how prior to making a decision about a proposed change to customer experience, data was used in the assessment exercise, but only in tandem with a more qualitative evaluation of how the change would be perceived by customers.

Visualizing data can make it easier to understand, more approachable and therefore easier to interpret and to use productively in decision-making.  Clearly the critical challenge here is to ensure that the data is represented and communicated in a way that is most relevant to the audience that will use it.   Some will prefer visual data while others favour a verbal or storytelling approach. 

Instituting a dialogue between analysts and business decision-makers is critical. This dialogue was remarkably well illustrated in the joint presentation made earlier in the day by eBay's Head of Seller Proposition and Business Analyst.  An important step is for the marketing manager to spend the appropriate amount of time at the beginning of the process thinking about the right questions to ask, a task for which creativity is key.  Panellists agreed that there is often a gap between what a marketing manager or decision-maker needs analyzed and what is actually analysed.  In order to receive relevant data from their analysts, marketing managers need to ask the right questions, and be sure that these questions are clearly understood. In other words, marketers and analysts need to ensure that they are speaking the same language.  Marketers often complain about analysts delivering unclear analyses, but it is often the case that the question the analyst has been asked to answer is unclear as well. Therefore, again, creativity is required on both sides in order to imagine what the other needs and how it will be interpreted.

Questions were asked about the inclusion of social media insights as part of Big Data analyses.  The consensus among panellists was that most companies are still grappling with these types of data, but that their role can be crucial in gaining a fuller picture of consumers and their attitudes and needs.

Concluding this topic, a question was raised about accuracy: how important is it to strive for full data accuracy.  A rather pragmatic answer was given "We always want to know the level of uncertainty we are dealing with, but of course, we never have 100% certainty. Not all the information we derive is 100% bullet proof. However, for a CEO 100% accuracy is not really important. What they really care about, are the insights and dialogues which is driven from the Data."  This again confirms the role of data as a starting point for creative problem-solving and decision-making, rather than a fail-proof solution. In practice however, panellists confirmed that often a decision will be made on instinct prior to the availability of the data, which will then serve to confirm the decision.


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