Data for every business – but how, when and why?

Yesterday, I took part in a panel discussion with executive recruitment firm Morgan McKinley, discussing how companies can accelerate their digital, data and automation strategies.

It was an interesting debate, not least because of the variety of roles and organizations taking part – SMEs and technology super-users, COOs, CEOs and founders, from the fintech  space and more-broadly. You can catch the debate – How to Unlock The Potential of Your Data – on demand at Morgan McKinley’s website. And it was great to join Leanne Ward, Salem Lassoued and Simon Herbert.

We were all asked for our top-five insights into getting the most out of your data. Here are mine:

  1. Start and be guided by your business objectives. Identify the customer outcomes that you need to deliver,  to achieve your business objectives.
  2. Determine what metrics are most important to you (and the business) – these should  indicate the customer outcomes (customer acquisition? product usage? et.c), and understand what is the core data you need to:
    • Understand success
    • Understand the funnel and levers you have to move that will drive that success – in other words, the relationship between all these touch points and data that will lead to successful outcomes
    • Make decisions against these
  3. Make your data actionable – identify the frequency and timeliness of data requirements, and the decisions you need to make and when you need to make them. Consider everything as a test environment where you are putting a series of hypotheses to test. For example, propose things like “if we do x, y should happen” – then measure if that hypothesis proved to be true or not.
  4. Present all data in the context of:
    • what it is
    • why it’s important
    • what you recommend be done next 
  5. Hire smart, talented people, who get things done, are infinite learners, and aren’t arseholes! You need highly adaptable, critical thinkers who can build and deliver outcomes.  As things change quickly, so must they, you and the decisions you make.  

I’d be interested in knowing how you and your organization get leverage from your data…

The Facebook boycott: short-term strategy, or long-term solution?

The digital marketing and social media sectors continue to change the way consumers engage with each other and brands, and the way brands approach their digital marketing.

And some of these recent changes have been confronting to brands: in July, a number of global brands took the decision to withdraw their advertising spend on Facebook and Instagram, as part of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign.

But the reality was that for many businesses, especially those with large consumer customer bases, this wasn’t a long-term strategy because demand and necessity were always going to remain on Facebook and Instagram, and because any continued absence would likely raise huge opportunities for challenger brands.

What’s more, this decision by global brands masked a number of other inconvenient truths – around the role all of us have in stopping hate on social media, in the way we chose to use social media, and the way we engage with brands that chose to take these positions. 

I think the answer has to be to push for sustained, meaningful, long-term change across all channels, and it starts with education. Read my perspective in more detail in my latest article on Mi-3.

And elsewhere, I commented on Snapchat’s first global B2B marketing campaign in CMO magazine. Snapchat  is doing what all businesses are doing (including the other social and search platforms) – to advertise that brands should spend their marketing dollars with them. Any brand can be successful if they create content that is right for its audience and that maps best to the platforms being considered, by testing and measuring impact, and by refining content based on where the best results are found.

Data for every business – but how, when and why?

Yesterday, I took part in a panel discussion with executive recruitment firm Morgan McKinley, discussing how companies can accelerate their digital, data and automation strategies.

It was an interesting debate, not least because of the variety of roles and organizations taking part – SMEs and technology super-users, COOs, CEOs and founders, from the fintech  space and more-broadly. You can catch the debate – How to Unlock The Potential of Your Data – on demand at Morgan McKinley’s website. And it was great to join Leanne Ward, Salem Lassoued and Simon Herbert.

We were all asked for our top-five insights into getting the most out of your data. Here re mine:

  1. Start and be guided by your business objectives. Identify the customer outcomes that you need to deliver,  to achieve your business objectives.
  2. Determine what metrics are most important to you (and the business) – these should  indicate the customer outcomes (customer acquisition? product usage? et.c), and understand what is the core data you need to:
    • Understand success
    • Understand the funnel and levers you have to move that will drive that success – in other words, the relationship between all these touch points and data that will lead to successful outcomes
    • Make decisions against these
  3. Make your data actionable – identify the frequency and timeliness of data requirements, and the decisions you need to make and when you need to make them. Consider everything as a test environment where you are putting a series of hypotheses to test. For example, propose things like “if we do x, y should happen” – then measure if that hypothesis proved to be true or not.
  4. Present all data in the context of:
    • what it is
    • why it’s important
    • what you recommend be done next 
  5. Hire smart, talented people, who get things done, are infinite learners, and aren’t arseholes! You need highly adaptable, critical thinkers who can build and deliver outcomes.  As things change quickly, so must they, you and the decisions you make.  

I’d be interested in knowing how you and your organization get leverage from your data…

Making Australia Fit for the Future

I was recently part of a panel discussion on Sky News here in Australia – hosted by Andrew Johnson of the Australian Computer Society, alongside Gisele Kapterian of Salesforce and the Blueprint Institute, Alex Colvin, CEO and Founder of Pendula, and Edward Mandla, Advisory Board Member.

The topic was the current economic downturn expected by most – and how the technology sector will play a pivotal part in the turnaround.

Here’re some of the points we made as a panel:

  • technology underpins everything, and is part of every vertical market sector, and every horizontal economy
  • we’re a small country economically: just 0.33% of the global population, just 0.15% of the global GDP, and the 15 countries above us in the global GDP league tables contribute 69% of global GDP. We have to export, and export more than gravel – technology levels that global playing field in Australia’s favour
  • a lot of capability remains to be unlocked, there is upside at almost every turn – but only with equitable access to skills and technology, essential to turbocharge growth, especially as we pull out of the pandemic lockdown
  • government incentives must change to flatten the IT playing field to that Australian tech successes can mix it with the global leaders (something I’ve written about before) – in R&D funding, how VCs can enter and exit funding rounds, and how export activity is supported
  • today’s customers are digital. Be where they are
  • create content to create trust and transparency, engagement and sales…and do so using digital channels

Watch the full program on Sky News.

It’s all about the c-word

It’s time we focused on customers, not COVID-19. More than ever you must invest in your customers, understand what matters to them, reward them for their loyalty, and focus on helping them be more successful and prepared for the future.

At Digivizer we’re working with a number of businesses that have had to recast their physical go-to-market presence into enhanced online alternatives very quickly. The fastest wins have come for those prepared to keep things elegant and simple, and those measuring everything to understand where they are winning, where they are losing customers, and in continuously testing new audiences.

By designing for customers first, and improving each metric to increase performance and results, they are preparing their businesses for the future.
The results are encouraging: by investing in digital, many of them are reinventing themselves at a speed and in ways they hadn’t imagined were possible two months ago. The brands that are doing well are those that have the customer experience and journey front and centre.

Read more on why businesses that will succeed as we leave the lockdown will be those who never forget about their customers, in my article published on Mi3. Link –  https://www.mi-3.com.au/03-06-2020/its-all-about-c-word]

What marketers should do as the apocalypse hits

As the NSW and Australian Federal Governments edge ever-closer to following the UK and other countries into Covid-19 lock-down, I wrote this article for Mi-3 on how marketers can take the lead as the four horsemen of the apocalypse come over the horizon.

Businesses of every size and in most markets are facing similar challenges: how to engage with nervous customers, how to loosen spend in nervous markets, how to position their solutions, what are the best strategies to launch products, when attention is understandably focused elsewhere.

With uncertainty and change, there are opportunities to help organisations test new ways of doing things, to test new markets and new messages. Read the full article here: https://www.mi-3.com.au/23-03-2020/what-marketers-should-do-apocalypse-hits.

And of course, always happy to talk more.

Just don’t die – the art of growth

I was honoured to speak last week at an event organized by Investible and FD Global Connections for International Women’s Day.

With the theme #SheScalesGlobal, I wanted to focus on what I passionately believe are the foundations for success for anyone in business, whatever their gender in growing a business globally. 

The core requirement for anyone wanting to forge new markets is one of determination and resilience. Making it personal and being super determined with a minimum view of do whatever it takes, as long as you don’t die. See everything you pursue as an opportunity to continuously learn. Scaling into new markets is so much more than translation. It is localisation. And the only way you can localize is to understand the local landscape, the social, economic, political, business and personal aspirations of a country (and for large countries, the counties or regions).

International Women’s Day reminds everyone of what women continue to achieve (Apple’s advertising for International Women’s Day raises the bar I think), and more importantly, it reminds us that our own futures are ultimately in our own hands.

For any list of successful women, whether they are women from history, or women you know and work, I suspect they share a number of traits: they were the first to break barriers, they knew what they wanted to do, and they developed the skills and strategies needed to get there.

I acknowledge that the need to champion women remains, to call out their successes, and to call out entrenched biases when we see them. But I have never wished to measure myself, and any success I’ve had, only against half the population – so I speak not as a woman in business who has experienced success, but as a business leader that has experienced success.

When a vision prevails

One example comes from my time as President and COO at Altium. In the mid-2000s, Altium (a global, listed Australian software company) was expanding into China. We had a huge opportunity there, because China had declared its intent to change from “made in China” to “designed in China”. Altium’s electronics design software, though widespread, was universally pirated. Rather than take a heavy-handed legal route to clawing back revenue, we decided to emphasize and offer the added value users would get from using legitimate versions of the product. 

Our vision was to legitimize our software and our customers, our strategy was to compete with, and not police software.

Noting Mao’s famous statement that “women hold up half the sky”, my experience in China was interesting. I was in my mid-thirties, the most-senior women executive in Altium, and the second-most senior of any executive after the CEO, a mother of 3 children, and they could not understand how this was even possible, for a company so well-known in China, in a culture with a one-child policy still in force.

The question was often asked there how I did it, and I made the answer, especially with the language barrier associated with being in China, very straightforward: because I want it enough.

The second example is of course Digivizer. I’m still often asked how it was that I chose to leave the corporate safety of Altium, to start a new company with new technology, again with still-young children at home. Again, the answer is that I wanted it enough.

This time, though, the vision was mine alone, for what the new company should be, what skills I would need in finance, operations, and leadership, and also to know when things simply couldn’t be done, in a company with a handful of resources. I wanted to help all businesses harness the digital footprint of their customers and prospects and make sure we built a platform that was affordable and easy to use. 

I went from running a company of 450 and 2000 reselling agents globally to starting a company with 2 people, growing it today to a company of 50+ people.

About three years ago, we expanded into south-east Asia, setting up a hub in Singapore and hiring great talent in 12 other countries around the region, including Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Thailand. In Digivizer’s case, we did this by learning as we went. We were moving too fast for the government bureaucracy to keep up, and we went from client contract signature to open for business in five weeks.

And in all of these examples, this has not been about any focus on my confidence as a woman, and everything about my confidence, skills and expertise as a business person. 

It’s been about building the confidence to use radical candour and about managing by Objectives and Key Results, as we do in Digivizer.

Neither of course is gender-specific. And I might add neither does success become a destination reached. It is a continuous journey where I keep striving to the next peak, only to enjoy the view of the next I set to conquer.

Sharing what I have learned

My first point is a simple statement of intent: whenever I’m faced with biases, I acknowledge them, challenge them by ignoring them, going around them or over them. This is not about the empowerment of women, more a fundamental position in life that I’ve chosen to take. 

Universal rules that anyone can apply include: 

  • Focus on seeking to add value to a business or a relationship
  • Embrace people who focus on growth and seek to create great outcomes
  • Focus on talent, not gender
  • Don’t do what is asked, instead deliver what is needed and do what delivers greatest value
  • Remove yourself as the limiting factor. We often place a lid on our growth because we do not think big enough
  • Develop the mindset that you are the best person for the job
  • Choose to pursue where your strengths and passions will best be used, and where they will make you most successful
  • Make sure you understand the problem you solve and the value proposition you are offering, this should guide your priorities
  • Identify what’s negotiable, and what’s not and stick to it (especially around balancing time with your family commitments)
  • Do what makes you happy and pivot when you need to – growth implies change, so recognizing what makes you happy and continuously adapting what you do and how you work to ensure that you feel congruent in all you do!

In short, in business, the first rule is don’t die:then change, pivot, be flexible, then never give up. Put all your energies behind what you believe in, so that you are determined to smash through barriers. Only we can be responsible for our own futures and success. 

I’d love to know more about your experiences and inspirations. Please share your tips and thoughts below!

With thanks to Investible, FD Global Connections, Hotwire Global, and everyone who attended the event.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

Heading: ICT industry needs a jolt to get it going

Harvard University’s Kennedy School’s Centre for International Development recently published its Atlas of Economic Complexity. It’s a fascinating read because it measures what the University calls an index of the value added by countries to their economies, and then rates them. 

Its power comes from being able to compare what drives a country’s economic activity, the point where added value appears, and the proportion it contributes to the overall figure. Digivizer plays on the ICT sector, so we looked into how Australia’s ICT sector performs. The answer is sobering – over the past 30 years or so, it’s essentially flatlined. The Australian Financial Review carried my observations as an opinion piece, but if you don’t have a subscription, here’s the summary:

  • The Australian Financial Review’s Aaron Patrick described the findings for Australia as: we’re rich, dumb, and getting dumber. Our Economic Complexity Index ranking has dropped from 19th to 32nd even as our GDP per capita has grown by 182% between 1995 and 2017
  • At no point does ICT rise by more than 157 basis points in a year (1991-1992, in reality a reversal of a similar drop the previous year). In contrast, the biggest annual rise for iron ore was 426 basis points (2007-2008), 605 basis points for coal (also 2007-2008) and 267 basis points for travel (2014-2015)
Source: The Growth Lab at Harvard University. The Atlas of Economic Complexity. http://www.atlas.cid.harvard.edu.  Analysis and chart by Digivizer. Terms used are those used in the source.

  • If we overlay the IPO dates of Altium (August 1999), Atlassian (December 2015), and WiseTech (2016), we can see small increases in the export activity of our ICT sector. It seems that these companies have contributed some heavy lifting
  • Comparing other markets and choosing the US as an example, we see consistent growth, even after the original dotcom bust. The sector is back to where it peaked just before the GFC. In comparison, and within its own context, Australia’s ICT export recovery was slower and flatter

Long-term commitments are needed to kick-start Australia’s ICT heart.  Industries such as ICT, as well as pharmaceuticals, medical products, high-technology and manufacturing, are needed to create the economic future and competitive playing field that we deserve in Australia. Action is required now if we are to maintain our standard of living. 

Talking digital, talking data, talking growth

Why should only large enterprises with big budgets have access to the best tools? In this podcast I talk with Vinay Koshy of B2B Success Podcast who interviews me about the journey and the unique role Digivizer plays in making the best Digital Marketing analytics available to help businesses of all sizes grow.

I love podcasts. I listen to lots of them (Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale podcast is a favourite) and I love being interviewed on podcasts: although I can’t see the audaudience to gauge their reactions, it’s a real conversation with the interviewer, and you can engage in nuances and diversions that are difficult in articles. I love the ebb and flow that takes place!

I recently spoke with Vinay Koshy on his Predictable B2B Success podcast, about how to use digital marketing analytics to grow B2B businesses.

Our work with a number of larger B2B clients (companies that include Lenovo, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Google, Optus) and smaller B2B companies, including some startups (companies that include Rockend, BluGlass) demonstrates that when you have data to underpin your growth strategies, you can accelerate that growth. While budgets and resources change with company size, data doesn’t. Knowing what works, and what decisions to take as a result, are crucial to fast growth – and make a real difference.

In the conversation with Vinay we talk about the need to associate numbers with individuals to better tell their stories, how privacy laws such as the EU’s GDPR have impacts on the collection of data, how building relationships with clients helps build success, and how having a people strategy is essential for global business growth.

Here are some other recent conversations I’ve had with other podcasters:

MBA and business working together: a Digivizer story

I co-founded Digivizer with Clinton Larson in 2010 and at about the same time I started my MBA (Executive) at the UNSW Australian Graduate School of Management.

Many questioned my decision around the timing – surely to do both at once could only make life more challenging than it needed to be.

But the decision was deliberate: I could apply what I learned in my MBA immediately to growing Digivizer, and I could apply Digivizer as an MBA case study in my course work.

The synergies were real and powerful, particularly in developing Digivizer’s business strategy for growth and to make the company attractive for initial funding (we decided early on to grow Digivizer mainly on revenues, with relatively-limited seed funding from investors).

You can read the story in a recent interview with the University’s Business School at https://www.business.unsw.edu.au/news-events/news/harnessing-the-agsm-executive-agenda-year-to-launch-a-digital-start-up.