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Earlier this week we shared with you the highlights from the TSW Service Transformations keynote delivered by Dr. Andreas Weigend, former Chief Scientist at Amazon.com and current director of the Social Data Lab. Titled “The New Data Refineries: Transforming Big Data into Decisions,” Weigend’s discussion specifically addressed what we can do to turn our vast amounts of big data into vital business decisions.  

Following Weigend’s deep-dive into big data and how we need to start approaching it as we move forward, J.B. Wood, TSIA CEO and co-author of B4B, the newly launched must-read business book that discusses the implications big data in-depth, came onstage for a brief Q&A with Weigend. It went something like this:

J.B.: In the B2B world, we talked about the power of the cloud and the consumerization of IT in the B2B way. But now, for the first time ever, our companies are directly connected to our customers―in real time, all the time. Historically we had no ability to drive customer success at scale because we didn’t have the data and the connection to make that real and affordable.
In the B4B (business for business) world, we talk about driving outcomes. We’ve never had visibility into those outcomes before. We didn’t know what the customer really did with the technology. But in the B4B era, we have that opportunity for the first time ever, and we have to go study what customer success looks like, so that we can go and recreate it at every single customer.

t’s been nearly a 20-year journey for Amazon and other companies to learn how to take data and drive company outcomes. But we can’t take another 20 years―we’ve got to learn these lessons and begin to implement them right away. Many companies are hiring data scientists as an answer. So, what is a data scientist? Where do you find them? How do you attract them? And what do you do with them once you’ve got them?

Andreas: In short, a data scientist tends to be a curious person. I sometimes think about them as “data detectives.” It’s about having a dialog with the data, as opposed to merely sticking to a linear process. Data scientists can also get their data from other resources. Thirdly, data scientists have to be able to communicate the results. So data science is really about taking all of these unclear attributes and making sense of them.

J.B.: So there’s a lot of competition to attract these kinds of people, to provide the kind of insights that Amazon has about its customers. How do we attract them to come and work for our organization, as opposed to someone else’s?

Andreas: I think it’s a mindset that’s best learned by hanging out with the students these days. See how they gravitate toward interesting problems―not what you assign to them, but what they find interesting.

J.B.: My last question is around the shift in company culture that’s now taking place. In the B2B era, the senior execs or the smartest folks in the room made the decisions. But today, it’s the understanding that the customer that drives the decision―and the data and the analysis―as opposed to the smartest person in the room or the person with the highest rank. 

Does that transformation in company culture come easily, or is it very difficult? And how important is it that the source of truth in decision making comes from the customer, and not the smartest person in the room?

Andreas: Agreeing on the equation―on the terms and on the weights in front of the terms―is easier when egos are not invested in the outcome. 

There are two steps you can take to help ensure success as you transform to the new way of thinking about data. Step 1: Help people make better decisions. Step 2: Write down that recipe, and try to quantify the equation of the business. Then basically anybody in the company can do the experiments I talked about earlier. After these experiments, you come up with the learnings, and then you institute the learnings.

J.B.: Thank you, Andreas, for these great actionable insights into how we approach big data going forward. 

Learn More About B4B

TSIA is here to help you navigate B4B. Embracing the concepts discussed in the book will have a tremendous impact on the success and future direction of your organization.

We encourage you to watch the keynote videos from coauthors J.B. Wood and Thomas LahVisit TSIA’s research listings to read specialized reports on how the B4B model will impact the key discipline areas of technology services, and purchase B4B on Amazon. We are here to help you evolve into the new B4B era―and it’s going to be going to be a great ride! 

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