In the world we live in, data is everywhere. And along with advances in technology, the amount of available data keeps growing—more than doubling every two years according to IDC, a leading technology research firm.
Virtually all businesses today regard data as an increasingly valuable commodity. ISA is no different. As you know, one of the Society’s five strategic goals is to “use data to understand trends, make decisions, and develop products and services that align with market needs.”
In this post, I’ll briefly explain why data is so important to businesses today and how ISA plans to utilize data moving forward. In addition, I will highlight the progress the Society has made to date in 2015 on its data goal.
It’s important to recognize that data alone has limited value. To become actionable information, data has to be properly captured, processed, and analyzed to ensure context, relevance, and purpose. The key is converting data into knowledge so that you gain the clarity and insights needed to make more effective, informed decisions.
The ability to analyze and act on data is vital in business, whether the goal is tracking purchasing behaviors among subsets of consumers, detecting trends in website usage, or gauging interest in a potential new product. This is especially true given the rapid pace of change in the marketplace, which requires organizations to quickly react to shifting demands from customers and operating conditions.
The right data also can help organizations improve operational efficiency and reduce costs. For instance, by examining survey results, sales figures, and buying preferences among customers and prospects, companies can move to discontinue certain products or services that are no longer regarded as relevant or essential.
ISA is committed to utilizing data to drive more purposeful and disciplined product development and management strategies and decisions, such as:
- Determining what types of new products to develop
- Evaluating the efficacy of products over their lifecycle
- Forging a more balanced portfolio of products
- Pinpointing which products to discontinue
- Staying abreast of key industry trends and topics covered by traditional and social media channels
Within the data goal, ISA has five formal objectives (below). At the Spring Leaders Meeting held in June, Jennifer Infantino Halsey, the Society’s Director of Marketing & Communications who is directing ISA’s data initiative, outlined progress to date in 2015 toward achieving these five objectives:
- Objective #1, Plan and initiate development of dashboards to visually track key metrics, starting with one product area and using lessons learned to develop dashboards for other groups, is 30 percent complete.
- Objective #2, Develop a list of external data sources to track and identify areas where we can correlate external data to internal data to learn more about our business, is 60 percent complete.
- Objective #3, Develop a portfolio evaluation model to help us make decisions about adding and sunsetting products, is 60 percent complete.
- Objective #4, Determine resources needed and best practices for data management, is 75 percent complete.
- Objective #5, Determine metrics for evaluating progress on five strategic goals, is 60 percent complete.
For more specifics on progress achieved to date, review this summary report.
Objective #3 involves the development of a data-driven product portfolio evaluation tool. Instrumental to this concept is a Focus Review Team, which will continually meet to collect and evaluate product-related data across a range of pre-approved criteria. The Focus Review Team would consist of senior staff representatives from all ISA departments and product areas. Ongoing input from other ISA staff members as well as Society leaders and volunteers also will be gathered.
During the first phase of product evaluation, the Focus Review Team would analyze product:
- Characteristics (attributes and benefits, innovation, competitive factors, differentiation, etc.)
- Budget and performance prediction (financial assessment relating to profitability, labor and support costs, forecast of future performance, etc.)
- Strategic alignment and market viability (alignment with ISA mission and goals, market data and trend tracking, market reach, input from volunteer leader groups and SMEs, etc.)
During the second phase, the team would score or rank a product along the following proposed criteria:
- Strategic fit
- Member needs
- Market viability
- Projected net income
- Red flags
- Lifecycle stage
Based on the accumulated scores, the team will issue one of three possible decisions:
- Green light (Go)
- Green light with revisions (Proceed with caution)
- Red light (Stop)
As our understanding and utilization of data and data analytics evolve, we’ll become a smarter and more skillful organization. We’ll be more in tune with our customers’ needs and expectations, more efficient with our resources, and more capable of targeting and capitalizing on growth opportunities.
Moving forward, I encourage all ISA members, volunteers, and staff to consider how you can assist the Society in becoming a more data-driven organization. Explore how you can put ISA data and analysis to work for your fellow members and within Society sections and divisions. In addition, don’t hesitate to conduct surveys, focus groups, and interviews on your own. The insights you gain will help you better connect with and stay relevant to your constituent professionals and more precisely address their particular interests and career needs.
In conclusion, I leave you with a quote by Arthur Conan Doyle, the well-known Scottish writer and physician: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”
As always, thank you for your support of and contributions to ISA.
A version of this article also has been published in ISA Insights.