The Cost of Perfection
Some fundamental business and marketing “health” metrics were either inaccessible or non-existent.
Two prime examples were: the growth rate of net-new customers, and the value of existing customers.
Beyond those, the value of a customer over time, and the cost of acquiring customers from various sources relative to their upfront contribution to the top and bottom line, to the business and its value over time, were elusive.
When we asked to look at source data to get the answers for the organization, we learned that an 18-month project had been under way to clean and organize “the data” and measurement of these KPIs would have to wait.
With a rush to activity without some important benchmarks to define what must change, we agreed there were elements of a “ready, fire, aim” approach. However, the data was “inaccessible” or otherwise “unavailable.” IT owned the data.
Another case of the new “Data ‘Mine’-ing” (not to be confused with productive “Data Mining”). In the interest of “controls, clean data and process” — data is held hostage and doesn’t create business value. As marketing waits, the value of the data (recency, for one dimension) may decay — and competitive advantage diminishes.
These sounded like pragmatic purposes. After all, one would have to suppose that if it really needed to be cleaned, then it had to have been quite “dirty” in the first place.
What possibly would the value be in working with such “dirty” data? It makes sense on the surface to me — plus, who likes “dirty,” in general?
Emotionally, I feel and experience the same concern. This dislike of “dirtiness” has made robotic vacuums a mass-market product — iRobot alone has sold more than 14,000,000 of them — and counting!
Yet this same data that was being “organized and cleaned” for the prior year was remarkable for what it did not do … create value.
This example seems paradoxical for many. Yet there are highly rational reasons for this behavior.