"Don't measure all the data, just the right data..."

I just read a Forrester report about “The Implications of the Splinternet and Future of Web Analytics.” Overall, it’s a good piece and like many consulting white papers, outlines some simple prescriptive changes for marketers facing a multi-channel shopping world. The only piece of advice that raised my eyebrows was the following:

Fragmentation is a double-edged sword in terms of measurement: It generates massive amounts of data from which to perform measurement, but the sheer volume of potential metrics can cause paralysis or misdirect unsuspecting marketers. Fortunately, firms do not need to measure all the data, they just need to measure the right data, shifting from breadth-based approaches to focus on depth in measurement strategy." 

In this quote, the emphasis was added by me. The problem I have with this statement is that it presumes that you know the right data to measure. Granted, there are basic measures that any business can monitor to improve their bottom line. But how do you uncover the patterns that you didn’t know to look for that will let you develop new perspectives about your customers or market? With pervasive data, cheap storage and massively powerful datamining tools, I disagree that there is "right data to measure.” Just today, in fact, we uncovered a pattern in some data that revealed saturation in a message that we wouldn’t have predicted. Had we not had lots of data in place that allowed us to explore, we would never had uncovered this and would have just gone on our merry way.

I would change this paragraph to be titled, “Everything is Data, Invest in Data Mining.”  The reason that marketers may be paralyzed or misdirected by overwhelming data is that they are the wrong people to be analyzing data. I’m sorry, they are not qualified, nor should they be. The key is hiring data scientists who are also good business people. Having that shared business knowledge allows a marketer to build a great collaborative relationship with the analyst, enabling them to find what’s important for focus.  And it’s going to change frequently.

It’s a new world in Marketing, one that is fragmented and awash in data. Success will come to those who better analyze data, not those who know what’s “right.”