A lot of companies make a great deal of noise clamoring about how they’re data driven or data centric or data [insert buzzword here]. But what does any of that mean? Are they really? Data can be infinitely complex, and could easily be discussed ad nauseum, which makes those claims both fascinating and vomit-inducing.
It’s highly likely that it is a marketing ploy, but most people never bother to look under the hood. I would bet that most companies barely understand what it is that they do, and somehow their business models run on magic fairy dust and unicorn power. (That guy is the chair of the US Finance Committee, FYI).
Data driven? I think for most companies, it’s all smoke and mirrors.
For the Birds
I’m going to posit two things: One, (most) companies struggle with complexity, and two, (most) resources are finite.
Doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, but these are the main reasons why customer experience for most firms is such a disaster. Think about your phone last interaction with a bank—or an airline, or any number of service providers—you probably navigated a universally hated phone menu, authenticated several times, and explained your situation to a representative, before being transferred and repeating the whole process.
Companies have optimized for their own benefit at the expense of customer experience.
Who Owns Your Data?
I’m only partially convinced that we’re doomed to live out our existence in an Orwellian nightmare, though there are new examples of data being weaponized seemingly every day. You probably don’t need a tinfoil hat to stop the CIA from reading your thoughts, but don’t think for a second that the NSA is the only one reading your email. I’m pretty sure the contents of my email and my cloud storage don’t really belong to me, but rather that Google is letting me freely borrow my own stuff from them.
It’s the free part that’s actually the problem, because there’s no such thing as a free lunch—we’ve given up something less tangible in exchange for a service.
The product Facebook is selling? It’s you.
Rough Waters Ahead
In late April, I had an interesting conversation with a gentleman for a large online marketplace about how the company that he works for had hit a build-or-buy moment for technology, and they were looking to evaluate which startups would make attractive acquisitions. Business had been reasonably good in the past couple of decades—they had been one of the pioneers of the information age, an OG-Web1.0 firm that had embraced the internet a few short months after it was opened to commercial traffic. He then went on to say something that took the wind right out of my sails:
“We’re focused on evaluating [startup] targets that could help raise our conversion efficiency.”