Lessons Learned while rolling out a Big Data report


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Classroom with students and teacher

Monday afternoon’s DAA New York Symposium presented a fantastic opportunity to catch up with members of the #measure community. While, as sponsors, we spent a great deal of time speaking with attendees, we also had the chance to attend a couple of the sessions. Two of these stood out to us as a Marketing Technology provider. This post will outline thoughts on Caroline Day of IBM’s presentation, and we’ll follow up with a second post.

Caroline Day shared a case study on the development and delivery of the IBM Center for Applied Insights’ ‘Business Tech Trends’ Report. The evolution of both the design and distribution of the report made for an interesting story on learning from testing.

We found that some of Caroline’s key discoveries directly correspond to some of the recommendations we continually share on implementing Enterprise Reporting projects. Below we’ll outline our thoughts on the conclusions we found to be of greatest value:

Move towards narrative storytelling or “make data human” 

While in the early years of the project the IBM team focused largely on visualizations, they came to understand that the analysis of experts could add great value to interpretation of the results of Big Data sets.

This is a principal that’s central to our mission. We believe that human language and storytelling gives added impact to words and is able to provoke emotional responses that drive action. We’ve written extensively on this topic in our latest White Paper: The Path to Data-Driven Storytelling and Actionable Insights.

Know your target audience

The phrase ‘get the right data to the right people at the right time’ has become quite a cliché. Clichés often become so, however, because their sentiment is worthy of being repeated (often to the point of exhaustion!).

This is a philosophy we work to every day in our attempt to provide multiple levels of data governance. We aim to ensure that not only is data protected to the highest degree, but also that each individual is not distracted by irrelevant information or vanity metrics so they can truly focus on what will help them get the best results. We always try to deliver useful data, not Big Data!

Focus on shareable content

It seems that we are going through a fundamental change in the way that we search for and consume data. We are bombarded by endless sources vying for our attention and we have become accustomed to having information delivered to us rather than searching for it. This change in our behavior means that we can no longer expect our data consumers to seek out our content, but that we must deliver it to them where they are.

For this reason, we enable users to not only access their reports on their smartphone, smartwatch or tablet, but also as PDF or PPTX reports delivered right to their inbox. Whether they are on Slack, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, or Skype (just to name a few), we want their data to be easily accessible to them in the way that they prefer. Too many reports and insights go unread simply because of the format of the document.

Think about your communication strategy at the start

This stood out as a fundamental step that is often bypassed as marketers rush to get through the implementation stage of their Reporting rollout.

We always find, however, that those organizations that take the time to map out communication strategies, and the timing of the delivery of information, are most successful.

Those who are able to rollout a solution first to a test group of key stakeholders and gather feedback on both the solution delivered and the manner in which it was communicated are often able to create a much stronger culture of adoption. This is due to the fact that they are able to improve rollout experience across groups as they implement changes based on previous learnings. We also find that communication on both how to use the tool, in terms of training and additional information on how it has been specifically set up for each organization, as well as how teams are expected to use it, can greatly impact on their ability to improve outcomes.


Are any of the conclusions shared above in line with your thoughts after rolling out technology or analytics projects within your organization?

Keep your eyes peeled for our thoughts on Dan Cross of Penton Media’s presentation on using Excel as a reporting tool and some of the challenges this method solves and provokes.


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Megan Wilcock

VP of Business Development for Sweetspot. Responsible for strategic brand development, marketing and business development. BA/BComm graduate from the University of Melbourne. My passion lies in finding creative solutions and encouraging collaboration.

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