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7 Key Takeaways from the Data Driven Conference (DDC) 2013

7 Key Takeaways from the Data Driven Conference (DDC) 2013

September 9, 2013           Analytics

I was happy to attend the very first Data Driven Conference 2013 (DDC2013), hosted by Mixpanel.

DDC 2013 brought together some of the smartest data-driven people in technology for an afternoon of unscripted conversations on how the data driven approach is impacting all aspects of business from product development and design, to marketing and customer communications.

Some big names in attendance were:

Overall, the theme of DDC was centered around the idea that industries need to break away from how they traditionally treat data (credit Max Levchin).

I came away from the conference with 7 important ‘chunks’ of information that I’d like to share with you:

  1. Big Data analytics tips
  2. Data collection challenges
  3. Privacy challenges
  4. Data driven behavior feedback
  5. Make data your tool, not your solution
  6. Interesting investor anecdotes about data
  7. Great quotes from the conference

1. Big Data Analytics Tips

Here are some big data analytics tips that I collected from the various executive interviews:

  • The sooner you can implement Big Data collection, the better.
  • Start simple, don’t over complicate the implementation of tracking and data collection. It will grow on its own, organically.
  • More data allows for better insights when researched properly.
  • Invest in a data specialist. Someone who knows what to look for and what metrics are valuable for your business. They are by nature curious, inquisitive and determined. They will know what data to distribute to your departments based on exactly what they need.
  • Don’t bias yourself into thinking a metric you picked is the key and most valuable metric. Learn from those small metrics that lay outside and away from your medians.
  • Be careful about making decisions based on what you’re measuring until you know what the numbers really mean.
  • Find the balance between how much data you collect and how much you use to report because sometimes too much data will render your reports useless.
  • Make sure you have an established data model across the business processes so that there are no conflicts.
  • When A/B testing, use data to see the results of your testing, not to influence it. Data can be used to show results but it can also be twisted to push for a direction.

If you are interested in more Big Data Analytics tips, check out our post on getting the complete story with big data analytics.

2. Data Collection Challenges

We have not yet even begun to scratch the surface when it comes to collection of data and the benefits it can provide. Primarily because data storage has been difficult and collection methods not easily within reach or reliable.  Industries have not seen data as a means to set the path for growth or have done so in a very restrictive manner.

In the last decade or so, with the growth and development of Internet technologies, this hurdle has been laid flat, but the awareness has yet to be elevated.

Because of the associated costs of configuration, storage and analyses, most industries tend to rely on limited data collection and sometimes just enough to meet reporting expectations. Imagine what it would be like to go to your doctor and rather than discussing how you’ve felt since your last visit, he had medical data collected on you every day since your last visit.

3. Data Driven Behavior Feedback

data driven conference 2013Max shared the example of a person coming out of the shower and looking at themselves in the mirror. The mirror, with a display at the top, would provide the “viewer” data, such as body temperature, weight, sugar and vitamin levels, it could notify the viewer of baggy eyes or skin disorders.

The data would be collected through various means including sensors around the house, on the person and in the person. This display of data would allow a person to know if they’re doing something that could lead to health problems in the future. With massive collection of data, the correlation between certain small indicators and the long-term results could become very accurate. One could literally correct one’s “path” on a daily basis.

“But then,” he asked, “how would you feel about being recorded daily while naked in your own bathroom?” Clearly, lines will need to be drawn in data collection as a whole, or they can be chosen by the comfort level of each individual.

4. Privacy Challenges

One of the biggest problems related to data collection is the direct impact on privacy. Individuals have a lot to gain from the analysis of Big Data collected from the masses, but individuals make up the masses and they must be the ones willing to provide such data. This relates to all industries and organizations must all learn to use this data wisely, so as to encourage the sharing of data, instead of discouraging participation.

5. Make Data your Tool, Not your Solution

Data can be more harmful than useful when used the wrong way. Data is not going to make your product better, but with intelligent analysis of the data, you will know what to do to improve it. Imagine Google Glass type technology where you are bombarded with ads as you walk into grocery stores and malls. (Remember, Tom Cruise in “Minority Report?”)

Advertisers could dynamically present products to the user based on their history of purchases, browsing and shared interests. But because you have this data on the user, are you using it wisely to present them products, or are you invading their personal decision making process? Or have you learned enough from the user so you can provide valuable recommendations or create better products that lead to increased long-term loyalty?

Jared Fleiser said it best at the conference: “Make data your tool, not your solution.”

6. Interesting Investor Anecdotes about Data

From the investors side, it was almost unanimous that they don’t care to see fancy charts and upward pointed metrics. They don’t care to see big numbers, or even rising numbers. They definitely don’t want to see dashboards custom built for them.

Investors want to know why you’ve picked the metrics you report on, and most of all, they want to know about you and your business.

Answer the question: What drives you and your business in the first place?

Big Data can help show a niche, or an over abundance of something that needs to be organized. Whether you’re providing a product to fit the niche or a product that will make sense of things that are out there; ‘what’ you use to show this, and ‘why’ you’re showing it are the two things that define your business.

This is what investors are interested in and by the way, this is the same data that will make your business a success.

7. Great Quotes from the Conference

“It’s never a metric, it’s where the person is going or not. Metrics are used to make things work better, but don’t necessarily make a business better.”
— Keith Rabois, Partner at Khosla Ventures

“It’s not about a nice chart that looks good, it’s about what metrics were picked and why. There are Big Red Flags when you ask why and answers don’t have a real thesis.”
Josh Elman, Partner at Greylock Partners

“Show us the dashboards your company typically uses to present to VP’s; not something tailored for us.”
— Frank Chen, Partner at Andreessen Horowitz

Did you attend DDC 2013?

If so, please share your takeaways and comments. If not, please join the conversation and add your comments below.



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