Digging Out the Data: A Case for Measurement as a Core Company Value

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this cross-over episode we're sharing an episode from When Spreadsheets Hit the Fan . This show is produced by Sweet Fish Media .  

In a business culture that demands speed and urgency, is a case to be made for using data to make the right decisions? 

In this episode, we speak with Sean Collier, Chief Operating Officer at Etna Interactive. 

Join us as we discuss:

  • The Importance of Data Based Decision Making
  • The Shortcomings of Product Based Organizations: Is there really a market for what you’re selling?
  • Finding the balance between speed vs data driven decisions
  • The Case for Measurement as a Core Company Value

Conversations from the front lines and marketing. This is B two, B growth. Welcome in to be to be growth, and today I am thrilled to have John Literalc with me. He is the global account executive at easy projects, the creators of the bird view professional services automation platform, and he's also the host of when spreadsheets hit the fan. And today I'm actually thrilled because not only do we have John with us, but we're gonna feature one of his episodes here in a couple of minutes. John, welcome to B to be growth. Yeah, Benji, thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here, for sure. Congratulations on the show. I know still in the early days, but exciting to to see this this happening and getting off the ground. Tell us a little bit of the premise of when spreadsheets hit the fan? I'd love to hear about it. Yeah, absolutely. I think the title kind of gives a hint at it. It's a show for senior operational leaders and sea level executives who, you know, do lots on spreadsheets and, you know, do business decisions and some of the troubles and what was they've had. And Yeah, really what we're trying to do is collect create a community of listeners and guests around best practices around, you know, running your business, whether that's from, you know, a human resources point of view or from an operational point of view. You know, how can you run your your business better, really targeting like people, like chief operating officers, chief marketing officers. Yeah, it's been pretty exciting. And how many episodes do you have so far? Yeah, we launched in May and by the end of August will have about eight. It's been good. We're trying to do about, you know, two a month right now. Fantastic. I wonder, as you've gotten into this, John, what's your favorite episode so far? What what stands out to you? Well, I know it's gonna sound but they're all my favorite. But if I had to...

...think about one that I think would be relevant to your audience, it would actually be the first one. It's titled Digging Out the Data Case for measurement as a core company value. The reason why I think it would be interesting to your audience is, uh, the gentleman Shawn Collier, is the chief operating officer for Creative Agency, Marketing Agency, and a lot of what he talks about is really really targeted for, you know, marketing firms. So that's one I would pick for the show, but I love them all. Fantastic. Well, I'm excited to get to share that episode then, right now with our audience here on B two, b growth, and we love getting to do these cross promotions of sorts. We get to learn from other shows and so for everybody listening, enjoy this one. If you want to connect with John or myself over on Linkedin, you can do that and you can also check out easy projects and bird view online. Be Sure to do that. John, is there anyway that? What's the best way to to check out easy projects and what bird views up to? Yeah, we have a really simple Internet address. Easy projects, all one word projects within s and then dot net, not dot com, and once you're there there's you know, tab right to the bird view website. Fantastic. All right. Well, let's jump into today's full conversation. Digging out of the data a case for measurement as a core company value. Here we go. Welcome to when spreadsheets hit the fan, a bird view podcast. This is a show for leaders and fast growing professional service organizations looking for the latest conversations around service delivery best practices. Let's get into the show. Welcome to when spreadsheets the fan. I'm your host, John Lyric. In today's episode I talked to Sean Collier. Sean is the CEO of Etna Interactive, a digital marketing company that helps elective healthcare providers across North America attract their ideal patient audience so they can build the practice of their dreams. With expertise and online marketing and systems engineering at an interactive helps both private practices in large groups expertly deployed custom online...

...marketing strategies. Sean turns business limitations into competitive edges for maturing companies, using data concealed in the organization to release time and generate profits. Sean and I are going to talk about the importance of making a data driven decision, what happens if you don't and sort of why a lot of companies still don't make data driven decisions. Let's jump right into it. Well, you know, Sean, I've been really excited. You know talk to you, you know you do something really incredible work as a creative agency, and you know you've been doing this for a long time. You've been around the block a lot on a lot of different companies. Uh. So, when you look out there in the business world, you know, either in your industry or just in business in general, with your experience, what do you think is the biggest mistake organizations are making and they should stop? You know right away. What's what's your pet peeve? My pet peeve? Well, the first one that comes to mind is probably not the question you're looking for, but people taking zoom calls without an appropriate headset and microphone. I don't know how many things. It can lead to a lot of things, but you know, probably the less flippant answer to your question is what I would coin is making decisions about the direction of a product of business a team without the underlying data to support it. And it's something that I talked to my team about a lot. I'm a very data centric guy. So even though the you know, the title of your podcast is when the spreadsheets hit the fan, I am a big fan of spreadsheets right. I use all the time and mostly because I love that underlying data and it's important to me to use data to make a decision and track it in its resolution and did it make an improvement and stuff like that. But a lot of organizations don't do that. You know, myself included, my organization included, there are times at which we don't use the underlying data to make a better decision or arguably the right decision.

Yeah, that resonates with me and I mean I think nobody would disagree with you that making decision based on data and in fact is important. But people still do right. So can you give me an example in your experience where you've seen someone make a business decision they didn't have the right data or they had the wrong data, and can you quantify for anyone listening to this? What would you know have been the impact, you know, like intangible things like, you know, revenue, and intangible things like maybe brandon that you know we always are listening. Honest, I only hear those kind of war stories from you know, someone's been out there like yourself. So I've run product teams in a number of organizations and in my court organization, which were a digital marketing agency. We help clients, you know, across North America, to promote their brand and drive leads into their practices. And people don't usually think of product in the sense of this repeatable, unitized thing, as something creative agency is really attached to but we do, and it is a practice that's very important because repeatability of processes, controlling pricing, being able to ramp up resources to do this repeatable, qualified thing is really important. However, in the product world one of the biggest challenges that you can run into is if you build a thing, is this really what your customers want? Can you really sell it and will they really pay for it? And you know a number of I'll speak from from experience inside of of Atna, you know, a twenty year old organization. There are times where we build to a client need. Right, you've got some really excited salesperson I know you work in sales, some really excited salespersons out there talking to a client like I really want they want this thing. Know, we can do this...

...thing there. Like okay, that's cool. I like, I see where you're going. I think the product can do these things. We can twist it, shape it, build it, whatever the case may be, and it might satisfy that one client. But if you don't do the LEGWORK, homework to understand does that thing that you want to build, that product extension Um the product shape? Is it scalable to other people. What is the market for this? One of the market opportunity for it? Right. That's something that I think, uh, product organizations fail at a lot, unfortunately, because you know, somewhere inside the product organizations someone's got that great idea and again, it might be a really, really good idea, but if you can't sell it to someone who's willing to spend money for it at the scale that it took you to recoup your initial investment to build it and, you know, the five x that you wanted to make on that investment of time and effort and so forth, then you've really done your business. That its service by not looking at the addressable market, at the existing clients who want that thing, find some way to test and understand the impact of this product that you want to bring to bear. So that's that's something I see happen a lot because people get really excited about building new stuff. Right. It's it's fun, it's interesting to build new product. Um, it's exciting to market new product, but if you can't sell it, if people aren't going to buy it, then you've wasted a lot of organization time. So it's one of the things that I've seen. Um, build a lot of excitement and then, unfortunately, a lot of depression in the teams that build that product and bring it to market and then they realize, well, it's not selling, it's not moving, it's too complicated to sell, it's priced wrong, it doesn't fit the real need of the market, whatever the reasons. Maybe you know it doesn't. Instead of those product teams to develop something new next time. Yeah, you're right. What comes to mind is the term perpetual pioneering, right. Yeah, you're never getting into like being able to, you know, get out of that mode. So, yeah, that's that really resonated with me. I think, Um, you know,...

...a lot of our listening audience, being business leaders and senior operational practitioners, are gonna are going to resonate with that. Right, building a product, uh, you know, it's a gamble and you want to be making the right gamble right decisions. So that that was great advice. Okay. So if we stop making decisions without data, okay, then is it as simple as saying, you know, we start making decisions with data, or do we start doing it with a certain type of data? Yeah, I think there's a sliding scale of some sort. There are clearly some decisions that I don't need data for. What kind of Sandwich am I gonna need for lunch? Right? You know, there are things that it would be overkilling. Will be able to spreadsheet hold on Um, but there are things where it can matter. Right, I'll use another story as an example. Pricing changes, right, so Etna did, probably lots of companies around this time or making pricing changes. You know underlying markets and costs of delivery for goods is changing. But when you make a pricing change out in the marketplace, that's an important and impactful decision that you need to understand and it's hard, it could be very hard, to make that judgment call of is this the right one to do? Should I make this change, you know, for margin purposes, for how it will sell in the marketplace? Doesn't allow my customers to still buy this product that I'm still doing, doesn't change my market. So when I make this change, how much data do I really need? Do I need a lot, do I need little? Do I need to analyze a ton, or do I not? And any one decision that we make. You know, I definitely won't say you always have to have data, but I will say that when you make that decision, you should understand what are the what's the data that you're going to change? Am I going to change how fast step gets done? So I need to be tracking time on task or something like that for a process. Am I going to change my adoption rate for product sales? Am I going to change contract timelines?...

Like, what am I expecting to change with this thing and make sure I'm measuring that so I can see the impact of my decision. So maybe if I didn't have all the data up front, I should at least be knowing what am I going to change with this and let's make sure I measure it after the fact so I can know I did. I did make the right decision, that was a good decision or, you know, it was mostly right. I didn't get it right and now I need to make another pivot of some sort. Oh yeah, and and so that heuristic constant learning, just you're just going to be constantly improving as well, right as you as you have that data and analyzing it as the new data come in, because you're right, you can't get all the data sometimes up at the front right well, and a lot of times organizations haven't been tracking that thing that you're thinking you're gonna make a change to, like, Oh, we don't look at the data that way. I don't. You know, I can make a guess at it. I can use some other data that approximated Um this this elements that I'm looking at, but we haven't been trackeding it. Well, we probably should be tracking it now because we're we are making an organizational change to impact that thing. So we should know what the change is when we make it. Great, Oh, that's awesome. So one of the things that we want to do here on what spreadsheets at the fan is we always want to challenge our guests to try and take their wisdom of what they would stop doing and start doing and turn into a simple maxim. What would you start? which would just stop, Dake, do you think you could do that here? A SIMPLE MAXIM? Write something that can be applied. Uh, you know, spoken in short term, but applied by everyone you know in their day. Right exactly. You're in the boardroom and you just, you know, stop doing this start doing that. That's exactly right. When looking at a decision that you need to make, can you see how did I say this? Can you quickly estimate the impact of your change on...

...your team, on your clients and on your business at large, and if any of those get out of a you know from a small, medium large perspective that the impact is large on any three of those things, then you should probably stop and get more data. Okay, good, we'll see. Yeah, it's good and I think, Um, you know, because anyone that's obviously just kind of, you know, listening to this while they're driving now that that's what's gonna stick with them and resonate with them. So, you know, that's great. Okay, let's talk about some of the theory. Right, obviously it's so, so common sense that you should make decisions with data and you know, we we hear this all the time, right, data driven decisions. So why are so many organizations still not doing it? What do you think is the reason why they're not doing it? I want to say urgency. I think that there are a lot of organizations are moving very quickly, right, you know, leaders and executives companies all the way down the line to everyone who's working on any individual project. They have to make hundreds of decisions a day and they know that if they deliberate on one too long, it might have an impact, or maybe they just don't want to deliberate on it too long. I don't want to have to think about this because I don't understand the urgency or the or, sorry, I don't understand the impact of it. I can make a decision and move on. So that volume of things and the speed with which we have to move in any given day is driving us to want to get to a decision. We don't want to deliberate, we don't want to Dili Dally, we don't want to hold up the client, we don't want to hold up our teams. Whatever that impact is, we want to we want to get there, not not from the standpoint of I'm gonna make a snap judgment. Let's hope, let's hope not, because those are probably not good for you. They're more emotionally driven than logically driven. But speed adders in our businesses. It...

...matters for our clients and because we want to make a decision fast, we don't necessarily want to go dig out the data, and that really probably brings the other side of the coin. Is it's often harder than it should be to pull out the data about things. So when you think about the systems and processes that you use to keep tracking your finances, keep track of your workflow, keep track of your contracts, you know, your client support, whatever the case may be. You need to be able to get that data out of those systems to ask and answer the question of this decision that you're trying to make. So I gotta go fast, but it's hard for me to get the data. So I'M NOT gonna go get the data, I'm just going to make a decision. Oh yeah, that makes so much sense. Uh, I would agree with you. In my experience it's urgency right. Um, you know in the back of your head, as a business leader, you know I should get more data on this and really think this through and you know, test it a b testing and all that. But again, that urgency right to get things done. You know, to to move Um, you take shortcuts. So, Um, you know. Can you give us some examples of when you've seen someone, even yourself, who's taking the time to slow down, you know, not a bow to the tyranny of the urgent and has taken the time to get the data, even if if it took a little longer than expected, and how how that made a better decision. Can give an example? Yeah, definitely. Um, we went through a process recently of selecting a new crm provider. Right. It's a you know, new systems software to help run our business we've been running for fifteen plus years on effectively kind of a homegrown solution, you know, as as engineers world do, uh, as we talked about in the pre show, like engineers will solve problems by creating software themselves often and we did that right. We we built in, ran a system for a very long time and Um, we ultimately the debt that was created, the technical...

...debt that was created with that system is outweighed by the effort required to move to a new system. So we get into this process of evaluating serum systems, looking at your you know, all the litany of everyone that could be involved in it. And I ran that part of the process and probably took about an initial three months to do a requirements gather and look at the usual suspects and get down to the demonstrations and start drilling into it. And I could have gotten to a solution, a decision at the end of that relatively quickly. And then my CEO Ryan through a curve at me and said, Um, well, what other things are we do we want to solve for in this and what else can we solve for having to do with some finance questions right that the intersect with our CFO and maybe pause for a second and go huh, yeah, I should probably take a step back and gather a little bit more and wind up unpacking a process that our finance team uses, because I was thinking very operationally, as a CEO probably should and does, and didn't think about the finance side of this question that Ryan was asking of me, and we wound up arriving at a whole new UH. It's a revenue booking process that really changes the game for us and automates a ton of steps that were very manual for my cfo, grace and her team, and we were able to remove work that didn't need to exist or won't won't need to exist when we have it deployed and give more time to the teams to actually create value in their organization versus doing all the Colete to click and by the simple ask of saying, well, what more could we do with this? Where else should we go? A gave me. It gave me,...

I guess, a little bit of latitude to say, like, I'm done with a decision, let's move on, to say, okay, well, I'm freed up now. You know, my boss is saying it's okay for me to take a minute and think further about this and uncover a section, uh, that's going to create a huge benefit for a company when we roll it out. Yeah, that's that's amazing. So it's an amazing story and just because you took the time to do it right and and I think that maybe the impetus there was, you know, I was challenged with the question which had the implication behind it, like take the time to think about this question right, so as leaders we can go to our teams and say, I have this problem, I need you to solve this problem, and they might hear it as organizational dictate, like Oh, I gotta go now, move a move, like no, no, no, no, I need a solution. Here are the parameters that I'm thinking of. I need these things solved, but I need you to take this I need you to think about it and come back to me with how you think you want to solve it. And you know the data under buying that and so on. So to take the time to do it right. Um, as long as we agree upon the when and I'll tell you if it's an urgent thing. This is on fire because my client is screaming at me versus. This needs to be done right, this needs to be done complete, this needs this has a huge impact of the organization. I needed thought through this as a small impact the organization. Just giving your best judgment. Okay, that's great. Um, I love the stories. They're just, you know, you're showing, like, the benefits and and the costs of not, you know, making a proper data driven decision. I love that you have said, you know, it's the tyranny of the urgent. I think you're you're right on that. That just that resonates with me. That feels right. But if I want to get started and I want to help my organization, whether I'm a consultant or I'm a chief operating officer, I'm the owner of the CEO, how do I get started? What step one, step two? To make my organization culture of, you know, making decisions by, you know,...

...having the right facts, the right data. What do I need to do? The first one is, I think, modeling from the top. You've gotta have leaders in the organization that believe in not making knee jerk decisions, even though they might have the experience to say this is the right thing to do, I've been through this thirty times, I can do this Um at least to back those decisions up with. Here's the data that I know, because I'm looking at the P and l monthly, I'm looking at the incoming Um Saturation. You know, whatever those elements are that you get as a leader, right, you get a lot of data kind of shoved at you as a leader, hopefully Um, and you're digesting it and your understanding it and you've wrapped your head and your fingers around that data and you can use and expose that to team members that you're asking to solve problems for you and say I need to solve here's some data that I think impacts that and I think this is and this should be part of your decision process. So you model it, model that behavior. The second part of that is asking questions of them to say hey, you came up with this process change, you came up with this decision to do x, Y Z. can you show me how you arrived at that? Can you show me the data that influenced your decision here and by asking for the data. It should be evidence, like I need to see and understand, not to second guess them, because clearly that that conversation could take a left turn there and go into a wrong place. So I'm not trying to second guess your decision, but I'm trying to understand how you arrived at it and what was the data that was evidenced by that process. So the modeling and asking the questions, I think, are key elements to help the organization get there. That the last one that I'll offer, Um, is how you know we do this as of one of the core values of Etna, which is make it measurable. So, Um, that's something that needs to be at a mission statement. You know, company values level, and this is are always hard things to do...

...for a leadership and executive team. It's kind of recast the values for the organization. But we chose when we did this, the last time we did this like six years ago or so, when we cast value statements, we put data and we put measurability specifically, not just data, because uh, data is kind of metamorphous word, but put measurement as a core value. And that should bring to mind and give you the opportunity to talk about how are you going to measure that change? What were the measures you use to do this? What was your measures of success? Right, so it becomes part of the of the vernacular. Wow, great advice and really easy to follow. I mean someone can fall that like tomorrow right. They can get started on that tomorrow right. Model the behavior, start asking questions that elicit the person that's making the decision to show that they've gotten. They've gotten the data and, you know, put it into your core values, it right into your your your guidelines for your company. Really easy to implement. Um, let's talk about, though, as easy it is to implement. We know things go wrong, right, something always happens, Murphy's law. So tell me where you've seen someone try to do this and they had some kind of resistance and how did they overcome that challenge, that obstacle to making their organization more data driven? Yeah, it's, Um, my head kind of split in two directions. They are thinking about two ways things could go wrong. One is that you create an opportunity for a decision paralysis and that I haven't collected enough data. I'm struggling to go get the data I'm scrubbing from multiple systems to compile things down. So there's and this is very common when you have a lot of legacy systems right. For Your Company has been around for twenty years, guaranteed you've got some legacy systems right, and pulling the data out of those systems and mashing it up together can be hard, Um,...

...and people will spend a lot. Can't a lot, meaning more than probably should be for the level of decision right. A small, medium, large impact again and people will kind of get wound around the axle of saying I have this data, I'm not sure what it tells me, I don't think it's enough, I don't think I'm prepared to make this decision, or I can't even get at the thing I'm trying to approximate. You know, there's a fun story about this one. So in the digital marketing, marketing space, things change all the time. Google is when it's changing its rules for how it does it's search engine rankings. Right, so when you get the actual search results up on a page, it's using all kinds of algorithms and the logic and obviously, as agency we want to get our clients at the top of the page for the keywords and phrases and locations that they really care about. And so there was a change that Google made last year called the UH Google Web Cor vitals update, which is basically Google saying speed matters. Make things fast all the time. And they came out with three primary measurements of how they study fast on a website. And so we responded with, oh well, we need to refactor how our clients websites that we build reflect on those three measures of performance that Google will use to then influence the search in ranking, so our clients pages will be faster on those three metrics and appear higher in the search engine results. And then we did it. We rolled it out, we rolled it across a whole bunch of clients and it's done good things. It is absolutely measurably better performance on the site. But Google didn't do exactly what they said they would go in to do, and the results of what is it Um measurably better for our clients sites and the consumers that are going to them. Yes, does that change the behavior of the ranking on the search engine results page? I don't know, and that's the problem I get stuck in. My teams gets stuck in analyzing the...

...impact of this very sizeable, very effort, high effort, heavy change, and I can't give you an answer. We decided to make the change because it made sense to make the change, but now that I've deployed it, I can't easily say did it do, from a Google perspective, what we wanted it to do? And so I'm stuck in this paralysis mode of not being able to answer as good or bad, or maybe maybe I don't want to say it's bad because we spent so much effort at it and and so that's something that teams can get stuck on and get wound around the actual delivering data day to day to data before they can make the decision and say it's okay to lose, it's okay to get it wrong, it's okay to let the data not be there, because ultimately you have to set a boundary for your decision. When are we going to say this easy to get done and here's where we're gonna go, or at least how far are we going to go before we have more data and and complete this decision set? Yeah, that's that's awesome. Uh, you don't want to out to the tyranny of the urgency, like what urgent, what you said at the start, but at the same time you don't want to shift over into the other ditch and have paralysis by analysis. And I think you've navigated for us kind of a good middle of the road, right, so that decisions you know will be well to the best of an organization's ability at any level. You know they'll start making decisions based on the right level of data that they can acquire and understand and and it evaluated that against the impact, the impact to your team, to your customer and to your organization. If any one of those is a this could have a big impact onto any of those three, then it's okay to take the time, Um, and ask for help. Right. I hope that everyone gets the opportunity to work in an organization as as fun as as my team is, because I can ask for help, even as a leader in the organization. If I am running into a wall, I can grab one or more of my reports my team and say, Hey, look, this is what I'm seeing and I don't understand it. Can you help me make heads or tails at this, because I don't feel comfortable with...

...and forward by decision until I can understand this. And so by saying that, by giving space to it and letting other people come help you with it, you can often, you know, move yourself off the marker that you're stuck on because it is a big impact thing and you don't feel comfortable with making that final decision because the data is inconclusive. Excellent. I know every business leader out there is doing a gut check right now and asking themselves, have I created a proper culture Um, you know, to make data driven decisions? Am I modeling out the behavior for everyone myself? Am I asking those right questions? This was high value. Sean. I Really wanna thank you get great stories. They really resonated with us and, uh, you know, thank you for joining when spreadsheets at the fan. It was great to be with you here, John. I really appreciate it. Projects, resources, finances a single source of truth for service delivery teams. Birdview P s a helps increase profitability by automating and optimizing the entire service delivery cycle. To learn more, visit easy projects dot net slash bird view, Dash P S A. You've been listening to when spreadsheets hit the fan a bird view podcast. Keep connected with us by subscribing to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you like what you've heard, please rate the show. That helps us to keep delivering the latest and Best Practices for professional service teams. Until next time,.

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