All That Data

On my last night in NYC a few weeks ago, I spoke to a friend of mine who works at a large bank. Somehow we came to talk about data collection and how her analytics team was also collecting lots of data, but doesn’t really know what to do with it.

One of the big challenges isn’t to collect data, but to get or make something useful out of it. She agreed that most companies are sitting on a lot of data, but don’t know how to make sense of it or even more challenging, connecting data from different systems in the best way. Connecting datasets, especially from different systems, is one of the biggest challenges.

In my current talk, “The Untold Benefits of Ethical Design”, I touch on how data collection and security breaches are slightly out of control these days. Much of the data many companies collect, likely only serves the purpose of being collected or to satisfy egos. It also is “the thing” that everyone on the web does now, so why not.

When we collect all the data and what we do with it, many usually don’t think about the user, but how this can help business. If we try to help users to have a better experience and play it right, aiming for happier users by collecting data more thoughtfully can and will turn into a business advantage further down the road.

I always advocate for an approach that I call “Grow with your growth”. Start collecting data when you need it and when you know what you want to achieve with it. Once that’s done and more information or metrics are required, add another next step. This avoids sitting on too much data that can’t be handled anymore and many times, this approach should be sufficient for most. Also always ask the question: “Will this help our users, or is it only good for conversion rates?” If the latter is true, maybe there’s another way to achieve the same goals, but with more respect to our user’s privacy?

Disclaimer: All this probably doesn’t apply if you are in the business of selling user data, aka surveillance capitalism, which I do hope you are not ;)