Voice of Data: Ubiquitous and easy access to the right data, at the right time

Giorgos Psistakis

Getting insights from data are what everybody is looking for. How about getting insights from someone that spent 30 years in digital analytics and understanding data?

Meet Stephane Hamel1. Stephane is an experienced digital analytics consultant cumulating a dozen years in the field. He has 25 years of web experience and 30 years of working with data to understand and optimize business processes.

Stephane: I leverage the Digital Analytics Maturity Model (DAMM) I created in 2012 to help my clients and the agencies I’m coaching to uncover their strengths and weaknesses and build a realistic digital roadmap. I’m also known in the industry for the Web Analytics Solution Profiler (WASP) I created in 2006, as well as speaking, teaching and writing about digital analytics and digital marketing for several years.

The “IT guy” that turned “business”

Stephane: I came to the field of digital analytics from a technical perspective – I’m a software engineer, DBA, system admin at heart who eventually got tired of being tagged as the “IT guy” and decided to do an MBA specialized in ebusiness. This gave me a well-rounded perspective on the digital analytics industry that was reminiscent of the early days of the web itself: lots of collaboration, lots of fast-paced innovation.

Data, Context & Creativity

Since the first year of work, Stephane started working with data to understand business processes. His work with data is an endless game of Lego. Keep learning new tricks or arranging the blocks in new, creative ways.

Data, Context & Creativity

Stephane: When I worked for the Montreal Stock Exchange I learned a lot about finance, trading, real-time data processing, and even Big Data before the name was coined. When I worked for a high-end software company I learned about animation, 3D and special FX. When I worked for a recreational sports manufacturer, I learned about manufacturing, ERP, CRM, dealer networks and a whole lot more.

So there is a pattern: data, context, and creativity to find new solutions.

Insights out of the big pile of messy data.

There are essentially two ways to leverage data: stating a hypothesis and digging in the data to see if it’s true or false, or setting a goal and following the data to see if we are making progress toward it.

Stephane: Either way is fine, as long as you start with the right statement and everybody (all stakeholders) agree on it. You can always dive in and hope to randomly stumble on something… on that needle in the haystack… but that’s usually not the best approach! I’m a strong advocate of optimizing a thousand things by 1% rather than trying to find the Holy Grail that will magically double your sales (or whichever metric you consider to be a measurement of success). Small, continuous improvements are easier, cheaper, and add up to bring exponential results.

What challenges do you see?

Stephane: I see a lot of organizations chasing the next cool thing rather than focusing on the basics: satisfying your customer’s, listening to them and striving to improve your products and services in the long run.

Stephane: Many marketers boast Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, G+ logos on their sites and are eager to broadcast on Facebook or Twitter and watch the number of likes and retweets (or lack, thereof!) instead of actually engaging a conversation. So metrics are a curse too – if you focus too much on metrics you lose sight there are actual human beings on the other end!

Out of the 3Vs, which affects most of the analytics process?

Are there really just 3Vs – Volume, Velocity and Variety, or 4 (Veracity), or 5 (Value!)? Please allow me to play my Joker here: it depends!

analytics processSource: DataScienceCentral2

Stephane: It depends on the business question you are trying to answer. In some cases, you need a representative data set, so volume is important. In other cases, small data might be just fine but it needs to be very accurate and precise (veracity). That’s why I always tell more junior analysts to look into the Six Sigma process of Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control. You don’t have to go into the whole Six Sigma shebang… but it’s worth learning about problem-solving and optimization concepts brought forward by Lean and Six Sigma.

Tools that you expect as leaders in Digital Analytics?

Stephane: Digital analytics data is a given – you want to understand your audience, you want to learn how they found you (acquisition), what they did (behavior) and if it worked (conversion). This gives you a lot quantitative data, and I like to augment it with qualitative sources of information, such as call center data, support requests, surveys, or… feedback on Facebook, Twitter, emails, etc.

…and that leaves you with?

Stephane: And then you have about 3,000 tools in the mar-tech space to choose from! And this becomes super complex as lead generation, marketing automation, specialized tools, ad networks, back-office data are added to the mix. While the core tool that is your digital analytics platform keeps improving and becoming more powerful (and complex), the business expectations are also rising… typically faster than the ability for skilled resources (and budgets!) to follow…

What is missing?

Stephane: Ah! There it is! This is where a platform like Blendo can play a role. Ubiquitous and easy access to the right data, at the right time, to answer the right business questions (while ensuring proper privacy!) is a challenge for both data scientists and business users/marketers who want to be empowered. I think if there’s an affordable, scalable, human-friendly solution there’s great potential.

Are you an advocate of work/life balance? How do you balance both?

Stephane: I remember reading the book “Becoming a Technical Leader” by Ken Orr – it resonated with me because I was not aiming for the classic career path of becoming a manager, but instead strived to become an expert in my areas of expertise (I can say I have achieved it!). This tinted my career path and I often made choices that sacrificed “power and money” in favor of “liberty and creativity”. Some people could rightly argue one option isn’t in opposition to the other. I have found the balance by being a freelancer and building my own personal brand in a niche industry, living in a nice historical heritage area near Quebec City, working from home, and allocating a fair amount of time for writing and creating new tools. I rarely have more than 50% of the billable time – I could make more money but would lose something: playing with data. I guess that’s why my motto is “Data is the raw material of my craft”.

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