So you’ve decided to overhaul your data system. It’s gonna be great! No more frustrating meetings wrangling over which of the two conflicting weekly sales figures is right, Marketing’s or Finance’s. One source of truth, pure and simple! Right? … Suckerrrrr.
Okay, sorry. That was kinda harsh. But here’s the truth: After all that work, your numbers probably still won’t match, and clear analysis of true data-driven direct marketing will suffer. Why? Often, the culprit is Departmental Myopia.
When you slice and dice data — even pristine, shared-source data — you are doing so from a unique point of view: Your own. Daily life in any given department is laden with its own assumptions, goals, interests, and biases you probably never even think about. Any data-driven insights discovered will unconsciously be filtered through them.
Conflicting date ranges are one of the most common signals of Departmental Myopia – and one of the easiest to fix. Say you have a column on a report labeled “Last Week’s Sales.” As an example, let’s look at how folks in different departments define “Last Week”:
… You might be referring to the payroll calendar – Monday thru Sunday.
… Jerry in IT uses the server processing calendar – Sunday thru Saturday.
… Vasu in Finance uses the commission calendar – Friday thru Thursday.
That’s three POV’s, each accurate, yielding three different sales numbers – from the same data set.
So you gather a multi-disciplinary team together to agree on a common date range. Progress! Now let’s ask the group a simple question of the following data set: How many widgets did we sell?
But how might those different departments answer? Let’s poll the group …
• BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE TEAM – “Well, actually, the answer is 10.” “WDGT” is the product code we were given, and ten records show that code. Your report says twelve, and where did the other two go? Put in a ticket and we’ll look into it. Someday.
• MARKETING – “Nope. Answer is 8.” That Margin Buster promo is the best thing to happen to sales since GPS. The “Marginbuster” promo code was used 8 times. We rule! Party at Mike’s cube!
• FINANCE – “‘Fraid not. The answer is 4.” The Margin Buster promo transactions net out at zero margin, so we don’t consider those to be real sales. Yay, Marketing. Not.
• WEB ANALYTICS – “Still too generous. The answer is 3.” We know that’s correct, because it matches our Google Analytics reports for the Widget.com site. We’re missing what? What is this e-mail micro-site you speak of?
• OPERATIONS – “No, no. The answer is 11.” It was twelve, but one canceled. Apparently, Sales guaranteed him that the widget would ensure first position on Google for the keyword “cool.”
• FULFILLMENT – “What!?! The answer is 4.” It’s complete when it’s delivered, and we’ve delivered four. We don’t count the load if it ain’t in their abode. If it ain’t come to fruition, there ain’t no commission. If it ain’t off the truck, it’s not … oops, gotta run.
• SALES – “Whoa, hold on — the answer is 12.” It’s right there at the bottom line. Gimme my bonus!
Well, you get the idea. One source of data doesn’t necessarily deliver one source of truth. Getting the “Real” answer in data-driven direct marketing requires turning on the verbal side of the cranium — and crafting explicit criteria that all parties can “get” and agree on — to start delivering the numbers that fulfill that promise.