“Think from the strategy and from the customer’s point of view”

“Do you know what’s fun? At home we use technology, but at work it’s suddenly scary. Or it’s suddenly forgotten.” Marijn Janssen, professor of ICT & Governance at TU Delft, concludes that he sees that many companies are still looking for a good way to work data-driven, even though it should not be that difficult at all.

“A lot of computing is already in our smart homes. The latest technology in our homes recognizes speech, predicts when the heat should be turned on and more. Or we deliberately choose which devices we buy, for example, for privacy reasons. But then we go at work and forget that we have that knowledge, “says Janssen. A shame, too much is possible, and the data is already there Janssen:” We already have data about our customers, about our processes, about purchasing, about our staff and “Our question is just what you focus on.”

Business processes are key

According to Janssen, the data is not the starting point for your innovation. “It is often said that data is the key and that we no longer have to think in processes. But of course we need to keep thinking in business processes. Data must support and improve business processes. You should always think carefully about where you can use data in your operational processes. Therefore, one should be careful about setting up a separate data department. New people do not know the core of your business and your processes. ”

“The interpretation of data is crucial. It can only be someone who is involved in the processes and who knows the context.”

Data science department

Nevertheless, Janssen notes that companies often start with a computer science department. “Often companies hire a number of data analysts, or they set up a data science department. But whether such a separate department actually works is the question. You bring in a very different culture. Computer scientists are really different from operational people. They are educated differently and speak a different language. Because they do not know the core of your business, you also run risks. For example, privacy risks because they do not use your data properly. Or data ends up on someone else’s laptop and it gets stolen. That’s the last thing you want. “

data stewards

Janssen therefore argues for keeping data and analyzes close to his own organization. In that context, data stewards are becoming increasingly important. Janssen: “They are the data managers. For customer data, it is e.g. one from the sales department or the marketing communications department. By assigning a steward, someone feels responsible for the quality and use of this data and can say what it does or does not add. It must be people who understand the data and the customer. We can get a lot out of data, but it has to make sense. The interpretation of the data is crucial. Only someone who is involved in the processes and who knows the context can do so. That does not mean they have all the knowledge, but they need to know who to call. For example, many companies do not have the in-house knowledge for privacy-enhancing technologies. But if you know it exists, you can hire someone to put it in your company. ”

Marijn Janssen: “Where you can strengthen the core of your company, you also want to set up your data initiatives.”

Improving the value chain

The importance of understanding both data and the customer is evident from an example of customer data. Janssen: “When you identify your customers, you often start by looking at who your most profitable customers are. That’s what you want to focus on. But in the process, you may find that customers you do not make money on are important. The first reaction is: I do not earn anything from them, so I do not intend to pay attention to them. But by looking further, you see that you can potentially make money on those customers. You might just need to help them. That way, you take a step forward in your value chain. You add value to your process. ”

Integrate data solutions

Another problem with a separate data department is that innovative ideas are often not rooted in business operations. Janssen: “What often happens is that all sorts of measures arise to use data, but they are not integrated into business operations. Sometimes it’s fine to kick-start innovation, but in the end it’s not enough. That way, the initiatives remain independent or you get solutions that do not match your company’s strategy. This often happens when a separate computer science department is set up. Because they know the data, but they do not know the practice. You need to make sure that data analysis comes back to the boardroom so that you can make the decisions yourself. Data often gets its own life, or analysts immediately implement initiatives. Then that feedback to the top no longer takes place. ”

“Others have already worked with data, so you can learn from that.”

Add thought steps

How should you handle it as a driver? Janssen: “What we can not expect is that the entire boardroom has technological knowledge, but they need to know something about that. When they get a data analysis back, they start thinking: where is the potential in my data? You do not need a data researcher for that step, but a business analysis. So do not make your decisions permanent right away. Make sure you have a series of experiments, evaluate them and then implement this method in your operational processes. ”

He continues: “Using data in your current processes is a good step to start with, but you have to keep in mind that those processes are going to change. The customer will expect something different or the market will change because new players are coming to who does it in a different way.So you need to think carefully about where the core of your organization is and how you can strengthen it, without getting in the way of the big techs.Because you can not beat it.Where you can strengthen the core of your business, you also want to place your data initiatives. ”

Committee of Experts

The fact that not all technological knowledge must be in the boardroom does not mean that you have to acquire it full time. On the contrary, Janssen believes: “You need data scientists for integration in your processes and for innovation. But if you have built an innovation, you no longer need it. You collect and then process the data automatically. That is why companies are often seen setting up an expert committee. If you do not have enough knowledge in the boardroom, then you take someone from the technology, someone from the business process, someone from the customer, someone from data and someone from the ethical perspective. That team supports you and lets you ask questions to keep the thought process going. They do not have to be there all the time, but meet once a month, for example. ”

Communication is the key

Business processes are key in data-driven work, but so is communication. Janssen: “We know that better management always requires communication. And it also means that you have to be aware of what happens when you start working with data. You bring in new knowledge, also from the outside. So let everyone give feedback every time. Once they have researched something, let the person with knowledge give a presentation and then ask how you can apply it in your processes. Think from your strategy and your customer’s perspective. “

Rather well stolen

Making decisions based on that strategy is also the way to have a broader effect. Janssen: “If, for example, you want to be sustainable, you must also spread it by setting a good example yourself and making sure that it is explicit in the strategy. It must be communicated. It’s the same with data. People often know well how data can be used. It’s about encouraging them to actually do it and making them aware of what it entails. For example, in the area of ​​privacy, people do not want to break the law at all, but they are not aware of it when they do. The same goes for cybersecurity. We always say that we have gathered our organization so that we are not hacked. But it has nothing to do with organization but with behavior. One must always communicate to stimulate awareness of the possibilities and points of attention. It also inspires. Or look at other examples for inspiration. They say better stolen than badly invented. This also applies here. Others have already worked with data, so you can learn from that. ”

Start at home

As a director, how do you start using data in your company? Janssen: “I always start with the home. What do you do with data at home? There you are often far ahead. Think of a car that keeps track of everything that provides traffic information and that gives you a faster route. It is data driven driving. Then expand this to your business. From data-driven driving, we will serve data-driven customers. Some customers are busy and want to move faster. Other customers do not need it at all. It’s like a traffic jam. Some customers are less bothered by this because they are not in a hurry. By having the discussion with those kinds of analogies, you find out that you are not talking about the data at all. You tell about the customer, about the processes and about the design. And then the data will be added later. ”

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