If data is the new oil, keep these 5 strategies in mind as you collect it

In the realm of mobile, data has been called the new oil. A resource so powerful it can change economic fortune a byte at a time. The challenge with data these days – unlike a natural resource – is the sheer volume of it and the ease by which it can be collected. The problem is that data spoils, data paralyzes and too much data invades privacy.

Through the 440 episodes of UNTETHER.tv I’ve accumulated some strategies on the data you should – and shouldn’t – be collecting.

Be clear about what you are collecting and why

This comes up often in conversation and for good reason. Just because you can collect every last piece of data from a smartphone doesn’t mean you should. What are the key metrics you should be collecting? That is the only data that should cross the spectrum but be very clear to your customers what it is you are collecting, why you are collecting it and how you plan on using it to their benefit.

The thing about data is that it is freely available but can you imagine if you only needed to collect the city of the smartphone owner but you collected 300 other points and that data was breached? That would ruin trust and put your users in a vulnerable position they don’t need to be in. Collect what you need, use what you collect and make sure your customers understand why.

Offer a clear data disposal policy

Shredders. Old school I know but this is exactly what we need to be thinking about in the mobile world. Shredders. What happens to data when a company goes out of business or is acquired? Who owns that data when something like this happens? Where does it go? How is it destroyed or transferred and has that been clearly communicated? We need to be looking at digital shredding strategies for data because of the rapid level of innovation in mobile and pervasive computing. Companies are rising, collecting data and disappearing at alarming rates and we should all be aware of what happens to our data once we are “allowed” to extract it from their servers.

What is your data disposal strategy? I’m not talking about allowing people to download their data, I’m talking about what happens when you shut your doors or sell your company or pivot. It needs to be clear what the intent is for the data and, once it is no longer needed, what happens to it. Do you have a data disposal policy?

Focus on your key metrics

We can get lost in the sea of data that is being collected today. There is such a firehose that we often become paralyzed by it and the data sits and rots. Focus intensely on the data that will satisfy your hypothesis. Are you trying to bring more people in the door? If so, what is the one metric you can track that will show you what you are looking for. Hold that metric. Watch that metric. Pattern that metric. Then change the variables and see what that metric does. Only when you are satisfied (for now) that the metric is taken care of, go on to the next.

Do NOT overwhelm yourself by doing too much at one time. My brother used to drive me crazy when he would fix my computer. He would open up the box (back when I used a PC), remove everything from the RAM on up and start putting things back in, rebooting in between. This was a painful but methodical way of testing and he always found the problem because he limited the variables. Once you identify your metric, do the same. Focus on it until you are satisfied with the outcome.

Understand that data is not knowledge

This took me by surprise but it makes sense once I thought about it. I speak with many entrepreneurs every day who collect data (analytics on their website, information about usage patterns inside their app, checkout processes, etc.) who simply don’t have time to action on any of it. For sure, the first step in understanding how to better serve customers or constituents is to collect the data but don’t become a data hoarder – don’t keep the data buried. If you aren’t using it to further your business or deepen the relationship with your customer, don’t collect it and let it rot. You can always come back to collecting it when you realize you need to.

The concept of centralized data collection and storage is an outdated, inefficient model. Many nodes of smaller data pipes, interacting with each other and in context to a situation (a purchase, the time of day, the weather) allows for deeper engagement and a much richer experience.

What are the key metrics – those that are paramount right now to your success. How do you use this data to automate an experience that moves a customer through your purchase process or through your support process. Start here, where the impact is felt. Step 1.

Use data to Find the simple patterns in your business

When you’ve focused on the right metrics – your right number – patterns will emerge and those are key to understanding how to automate certain areas of your business, the critical ones. We often look at the wrong things in the wrong places and wonder why we are missing trends or seeing them too late.

Using the data you collect effectively requires small first steps as is often the case with new shifts. Data collection is changing business – so much so that many of the companies I talk and work with are hiring data scientists as core to their team. It’s not good enough for your to collect the data, you much collect the right data and put it in the right context to help make a sale. Period. If you aren’t doing that (I can help if you aren’t), don’t collect it.

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of UNTETHER.tv and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

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