Use Data Insights As A Reflex To Drive Great Decisions


As consumers are becoming more careful about sharing data and regulators are stepping up privacy requirements, Tim Carmichael, Chief Data Officer at Chalhoub Group, says that data protection and privacy can create a business advantage.

“Data reflects our respect for our customers and the trust they can have in us handling their data. And at any stage, if we lose that trust, we lose their customer and our reputation. So there’s a good business reason why we would want to adopt these regulations and make sure we respect them.” Carmichael talks about a shift from big data to small and wide data, data fabric, and innovations Chalhoub Group is looking for.

What are the main trends in data and analytics for 2022 and beyond?

A couple of trends have emerged in the last year that are worth considering. Firstly, arguably, there is a shift from big data to small and wide data. Big data is characterised by volume. A huge amount of data moves quickly and from multiple sources, which risks swamping an organisation.

That’s one of the main criticisms of big data where it’s hard to harness. It’s hard to make sense. There’s an argument that what organisations need is small and wide data. Small size allows you to focus on something very important to the business. Whereas big data might let you say, ‘hey, we’re looking at a forest;’ wide data would select which trees in the forest you’re looking at, and small data would help you concentrate on the shape of the leaves on those trees. Of course, that is focusing on something that matters in business terms, something they can use, and isn’t overpowering for a human to engage in this process.

So that’s one of the trends we’re seeing in big data and analytics. The other one is the concept of the data fabric. Data fabric is where you have a much closer integration of multiple data sources so that they don’t become silos. They are ingested and brought together in a timely, meaningful manner rather than waiting ages for that data to arrive.

Do you think organisations invest enough in data and analytics, and what innovation are you looking for?

There are two flavours of investment. One, of course, is a financial investment. The idea is to use data and analytics as multipliers of your business. So you expect a certain multiplied return on investment. And typically, that manifests itself as the cost of software licensing, safe access and the tools you need, the cost of the people, and the skillsets of those people. And therefore, their investment choices are associated with whether you have those people as permanent employees, onshore or offshore, or whether you outsource. Each of those approaches would have an advantage or disadvantage. So there’s a financial investment and doing it right. It isn’t cheap because the skills are still relatively rare. And if you’re serious about generating insights from data that would allow you to unlock value, then there’s an investment to be made upstream. That’s the first part of the investment. What’s important to understand is the cultural and behavioural investment. And this, frankly, is much harder to get. It’s all well and good having a data team that surfaces insight for the business. What is the business’s reflex to harness those into their routine operations, to use those insights as a reflex rather than an afterthought to drive great decisions that unlock value on time to allow the business to be proactive.

Get ahead of the game rather than react to things that have already happened. An organisation’s maturity position will dictate whether or not those cultural reflexes are already there or learned. But there’s certainly an investment in behaviour and culture.

People see the value in what they’re getting out of data and the insights.

Coming to the second part of the question, there are so many innovations that we would be looking forward to on our level of maturity, and it’s a growing level of maturity. We’re still infused by innovations that we can bring to bear ourselves associated with harnessing machine learning and hardcore data science if they’re not yet necessary.

We’re infused by the innovations that will come with predicting better our customer behaviours and customer propensity to buy. For instance, in the luxury retail space, recommendation and personalising for our customers.

In Chalhoub group, we try to delight our customers wherever we find them, whether in a physical store, online or through an app. And on all of those occasions, whichever channel you’re using, we want to understand their preferences and what they seek.

And then speaking to them in a language they understand and about things they’re already interested in is important. So those are the innovations that might sound super basic for some people, and that’s fine for our level of maturity.

How do organisations harness the power of data while staying compliant with data and regulations?

The “how” is one thing, and whether or not organisations do it is another thing. It’s hugely important to the organisation and its reputation that they do this because our customers trust us with their data. Therefore, we must take that trust seriously and make sure that we treat it with respect when working with customers’ data, particularly personal data. We ensure that it’s only used for legitimate business purposes, typically where there’s a sensible value exchange between the business and the customer.

Personalisation and recommendation are good examples of why you would wish to have the customer data, and the customer would be happy if you to have their data with informed consent. Organisations do reflect the regulations in force. Now, the de facto standards for regulations are typically GDPR and CCPA.

In this region, the UAE and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia are growing their own regulation sets, which are similar to GDPR but have certain differences, particularly around the sovereignty of data and the deadlines or thresholds. Organisations must respond to that, not just because they’re law; they make great businesses. Data reflects our respect for our customers and the trust they can have in us handling their data.

And at any stage, if we lose that trust, we lose customers and our reputation. So there’s a good business reason why we would want to adopt these regulations and make sure we respect them. So how we do that is a combination of security and confidentiality measures. It’s about access control to ensure only those who really should have access to certain data can do so. It’s to make sure good basics are in place, and we have a complete understanding and visibility of the data we hold for legitimate reasons. And we don’t hold it for a moment longer than we need, and that all boils down to good data governance that can generate trust and confidence in our data and how we are handling it.

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