With our focus on intelligent data for the month of February, long-serving contributor Elizabeth Shobert focuses on making a technology – specifically analytics – partnership work. Elizabeth is Director of Marketing & Digital Strategy at StyleSage.
When it comes to making a decision about whether to invest in a new technology, chances are you probably have a choice. And if past experience in marketing is to tell me anything, choosing a new technology partner – in particular one in analytics – is just one task of many that falls under your job duties. With that in mind, it’s useful to take a step back and talk through some of the key things you ought to know beforehand, so you not only make the decision that best meets your organization’s needs, but that you are also set up for success out of the gate.
It’s AI and that’s what we need
In technology marketing, we often see certain trending topics and acronyms, the ones we know are going to make us look oh-so-smart and knowledgeable. These days one of the terms you’ll hear often is “AI.” While most of us have a “I can kind of explain what it is” understanding of AI, the trick is to directly connect what that AI will do for your organization in terms of achieving your business goals.
Before partnering with a new technology provider, you need to strip away the lingo and get to the true essence: the ROI that technology will power for your business. Consider whether it’s unlocking business efficiencies so you can get things accomplished faster, gaining additional insight into the customer or the market in which you’re competing or entering, or preserving profit margins by pinpointing the right products to make and market.
This is just a short list of some of the areas that an analytics provider can help you address, but certainly there are plenty of others. If you want to be sure it’s going to move the needle for your organization, be sure to ask the solutions provider to provide use cases with quantifiable ROI.
It will do everything, immediately
In an ideal world, your analytics provider does everything you need and more. However, what’s a more likely scenario is that it will do most of what you need, and what’s not there presently can and will be developed along the way for your additional requirements.
The key to figuring out whether you are picking the right partner is to get internal alignment beforehand. There’s a couple of recommended steps to make this a painless process. The first move is to put together a small group of cross-functional stakeholders who will likely benefit from the usage of analytics. Once you have that group established, you’ll next want to get their list of requirements, separated into “must have” and “nice to have.” (And be sure to document these requirements. You’ll come back to them time and time again, both in the vetting process and later down the line, in analyzing the health of your relationship with your analytics provider.)
What’s next? Getting to try out the solution. A trial is one of the best and easiest ways to determine if there’s real substance to the provider’s claims. During this trial process you can test out whether the solution checks those boxes. Perhaps there are a few things missing? Talk to the provider and find out what’s on their feature development roadmap. You’re looking for a true partner mindset and if they’re the right one, they’ll likely be willing to lay out a clear timeline with milestones to achieve your business requirements.
We’re all set up and the work is done
Not so fast! While the selection and onboarding process is a big part of the work, now you want to make sure those dollars you’re spending on that technology are seeing their returns. But fear not, as a good provider will do a lot of the heavy lifting here for you. They should not only set your teams up for success by training them and providing technical support, but they should also be providing you with insights on who’s using the data, new features and content, and asking for feedback on what’s working and what’s not working for you.
What can you do to make sure that the technology takes root and provides real meaning to your business? Be an evangelist! Let others know how the solution is being used, bring in other relevant teams who will also find value in the solution, and encourage open and honest feedback on the value the solution is and ought to be providing now and in the future.
In the retail business, no two organizations look and function exactly the same, so there may be other requirements that you will need to align on during selection, onboarding, and partnering with a technology solution. Nevertheless, these steps will get you on the path to extracting true value from your analytics provider.