In the third edition of our monthly online talk show Ctalk, Fabienne de Vries discussed the most important ins and outs with three experts.

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Data is sometimes referred to as the new oil. If you have enough data and apply the right analyses, there are plenty of opportunities for the taking. For many companies, this promise is a reason to invest. What do you need to think about?

Look before you leap
Marc Bongers is Director of Marketing & Data Intelligence at New Skool Media, who you may know from their magazines such as EW, KIJK and Formule 1. His organisation has been using data successfully for a long time. Based on algorithms with associated data models, they can accurately predict how likely it is that someone will cancel a subscription. “That’s interesting information for customer service, for example,” he explains. “It provides them with the tools to steer the conversation towards the best possible outcome for the company.” But how do they get there? “The most important thing is: look before you leap. Start by looking at what you are going to do, and above all, why.”

Build a solid foundation
Marko Lubina, Business Intelligence Consultant at Ctac, sees in practice that companies often jump right in at the deep end, without first creating a good foundation. “There’s a well-known phrase in the data world: ‘GIGO – garbage in, garbage out’. If your data is poor, your forecasts won’t be any good either. It’s important to focus on creating a good foundation first. Work out how you need to store data, how to query it and how to migrate it to another system. There are many points in the data supply chain where contamination can occur.”

Take small steps towards major successes
Once you have a clear idea of what you want to do with your data, and you have the basics in place, keep one foot on the brake, says Bongers. “If you want to use data successfully, start with small steps and specific goals. Otherwise, the project will become far too big. The benefit of this is that it’s easier to make adjustments. In addition, the investment remains under control, and some small successes will help the rest of the organisation to get enthusiastic.” According to Jerom Theunissen, Data & Analytics Consultant at Ctac, this last point is extremely important. “We recommend involving the business directly in this kind of project. This instantly gives us, as consultants, access to first-hand knowledge and also ensures better adoption at a later stage.” Bongers acknowledges the importance of involving the business: “Make sure your management is on board, and there’s someone who is driving the project within in organisation. Someone who really acts as an advocate for these developments.”

Worth the investment
Is data the promised black gold? According to the guests on the programme, the answer is ‘yes’, but only if you set it up correctly from day one. With a well-built data infrastructure, a clear strategy, and management and a team that are willing and able to get involved in the plans. Theunissen: “You have to take risks to work with data science. Be aware, too, that it takes a lot of time and energy to complete the exploration.” Bongers from New Skool Media puts it this way: “In order to strike gold, you first need to invest. But it’s certainly worth the investment.”

Want to find out more about what data science entails and how to achieve a good data strategy? Watch the third episode of Ctalk.