Data Driven: Digital Marxism

An example of the kind of metrics that can be measured affordably, in real time today.

Anyone can create value with the right data

It is the combination of people and tools that create value of any kind, in any industry. In the world of data and analytics, the data or processes themselves are meaningless without a person to make it all happen and to interpret the result. Sure, computers and databases can churn out value, but they have to be loaded with programs and rules first—not to mention the strategic understanding afterward.

Data: Then and Now
Years ago, before 24k modems and couplers roamed the landscape, marketing was dominated by a combination of calculators, yellow legal pads, ledger sheets and mainstream retail marketing practices.

Attribution and investment decisions were built on a foundation of focus groups and old-fashioned research. Then came the world of Lotus spreadsheets, manual reporting and blazing 56k modem speeds. The tools of the trade that created data and analytics value, up until this time, were controlled by a single person with 10-key calculators, Lotus programs and green bar printouts in-hand.

Next came 800 numbers, the Internet, more powerful computers and more complex direct marketing practices. All of this meant more and more data started becoming available. Because of this, the tools necessary to create value from data and analytics needed to become more powerful, too.

It makes sense that the investments necessary to develop new tools to keep up with the voluminous amounts of data arriving would only be available to those with enough cash to make the commitment. Thus, the tools and practices necessary to create value moved into the hands of the larger entities. The single person with a calculator was replaced by a team with relational databases to leverage. Amazing things were accomplished with the never-ending stream of new data, which continues today.

However, technology also has been expanding as rapidly as the volumes of data. We have now gone full-circle in regard to the tools necessary to create value from data and analytics. Extremely powerful tools are becoming available and are returning the “tools of production” back to a single person, with very affordable processing speeds and gigabytes of storage at their fingertips.

Geoff Wolf is EVP of client strategy at the Mission, Kan.-based direct marketing agency J. Schmid & Associates.
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