With less than a month to go until the 7th edition of the IBM CDO Summit, we wanted to get the conversations started early to give you a taste of what to expect from the event. Therefore, over the coming weeks, we will be bringing you a series of interviews with some of the data and analytics leaders who will be speaking at the conference.
To kick the series, off we sat down with Jeff Bodzewski, Chief Analytics Officer for M Booth, the reigning ‘Mid-size and Creative Agency of the Year’. Working with partners including American Express, Godiva, GM, Brooks Running and Tinder, Jeff works to build a culture of data that delivers the right message to the right person at the right time.
Having built the data analytics function from scratch at M Booth, what would you say were the top 3 challenge you faced and how did you overcome them?
My role is as much change management as it is data because M Booth was highly successful as a creative agency for decades before data and analytics became formalized when I arrived. Senior practitioners who won awards, clients and advanced their career had done so often without a formalized analytics practice to help guide them versus relying on their own instincts and hunches. The single biggest challenge honestly was a “what can you do for me?” mind-set because of all of that past success.
With the full support of agency leadership, my team and I approached every interaction as a chance to enhance the creative ideations and strategy rather than be prescriptive. We came to each interaction with solutions and have attempted to streamline the user experience as much as possible so that the internal teams don’t have to know or worry about the actual mechanisms or methodologies for answering the questions. The result of incremental budget from clients, increased relevance to the CMO because of data that could inform and measure, and credibility within the organization has helped us tremendously build and grow our analytics team within M Booth.
A lot has been written recently about ‘data translators’, what is your view on this potential emerging role and what potential benefits may they have for organizations?
The unique ability to translate data into an actionable and accessible narrative is the single most important skillset on my team today. Our internal clients within M Booth are highly creative and idea driven so the idea of showing up to a strategy session or brainstorm with spreadsheets and pivot tables is simply a non-starter. Instead we focus on stitching together disparate signals, from sales to search behaviour, to describe the target audience, unmet needs, marketplace conditions and competitive actions that will influence the success of the program.
A report not too long ago (that I wish I could recall the author for proper credit) found that the most effective organizations are ones where data is shared throughout regardless of title, function or other artificial silos. I couldn’t agree more, but one of the missing elements is context and being able to effectively determine what these data signals mean. The “data translators’ are in a unique and very powerful position to add that necessary context throughout an organization or risk the data continuing to be siloed in the respective business units.
When conveying ‘the power of data’ to non-data literate peers, what do you find most effective?
There really are very few truly “non-data literate” people that I’ve encountered of late as data seems to have become more mainstream over the past 3-5 years with the advent of tools such as infographics and even fitness trackers where it is more prevalent than ever. That isn’t to say that people now fully understand error margins or the latest tracking mechanisms available, but the conversations with more creative peers are typically around finding out what’s possible and answering questions than going through specific methodologies and approaches.
We operate and position ourselves as a consultancy that, shamelessly borrowing from the early IBM Watson marketing efforts, answers questions rather than presents data. And that’s exactly how most of our interactions with internal and external clients follow: understanding what questions we can answer through a data narrative around delivering the right message to the right person at the right time, which is the core of any marketing effort. Many times our reports lead with a 3-5 page executive summary that relies heavy on representative visuals and text to build a story with charts and graphs in the appendix should someone wish to further explore on their own.
Digital transformation is a real hot talking point right now, too. What do you consider to be the key pillars of a successful digital transformation strategy?
The term “digital transformation” reminds me a lot of the obsession around “disruption” where many use it yet few use it correctly. My role prior to M Booth was actually leading a digital team at Epsilon where we created social content, created and deployed websites and built mobile experiences, yet at the core is data and the real-time nature of it. That’s what led me to shift from digital to focus on data because it really is the core at every aspect of operations from marketing to supply chain.
Any type of transformation requires a vision to look beyond what customers are asking for today and looking at what they’ll need in the future to leapfrog the logical next step. It also requires a very clear consensus on the use case as you could build the most thoughtful ecosystem that ends up scrapped because it doesn’t meet the specific needs of the intended user. Perhaps the single most important element is the support of senior leadership who can spur others to action, contribute meaningfully to the process and incentivize (or mandate) participation across the organization.
To hear more from Jeff, and to put your own questions to him, be sure to join us at the Boston Park Plaza on October 24-25 for the IBM CDO Summit. At the exclusive event, Jeff will be joined as a speaker by over 50 data and analytics leaders, as part of a gathering with over 150 C-Suite and VP level executives.
Jeff will be leading a discussion entitled ‘Communicating and Speaking a Foreign Language? Utilizing Data Translators’ where he, and the other data leaders in attendance, will tackle how best to overcome the divide between number crunchers and decision makers, and how ‘data translators’ can bridge the gap.
The event is complimentary and you can apply for your place online. Be sure to act fast as with over 100 attendees already registered, secure your place today to avoid disappointment.
Don’t forget to check out our other interviews, as well as articles and more, in our dedicated content section.