Is Your Organization Ready to Put Business Intelligence to Work?

Experts are forecasting an increase in digital marketing budgets for 2015. Recently, that got me thinking about where we are as an organization amid the new digital economy. I have a boatload of confidence that our digital team is being positioned to succeed using business intelligence acquired through the carefully selected digital tools we’ve been acquiring. But I recall how it used to be around here . . .

Business technology evolution

Think back to pre-“digital” times. How did we manage customer relationships? We did it with phone conversations and hand-written correspondence. Those were the dark ages! How did we find new customers? There was a lot of guesswork involved. We had few marketing and sales communication options.

Then came the ushering in of the Internet. The Web gave us the ability to reach out one-to-one on a massive scale. But despite our ability to communicate in this way during the early years, we were still limited in our ability to understand our audience.

As scalable digital technology evolved, we began to collect data. The business intelligence (BI) era had dawned. Tools burst onto the scene, which could organize, segment, report and communicate with our databases. Businesses can now explore ways to “talk” one-to-one with each of our customers—in real-time! Through analytics programs, we’re getting increasingly granular views of our customers, and we’re able to collect and store data at greater rates with the help of constantly expanding capacities. Today, marketing campaigns can be more tailored to market segments.

The impact of BI on organizations

Look at the impact of BI today. Businesses can now identify customer habits, preferences, desires, and values. By using Adobe analytics and testing solutions, we’re able to create more relevant interactive experiences for our customers. At MGM Resorts, by targeting audiences, testing concepts and ideas, and tightening feedback loops, we can react to trends quickly. As our digital maturity deepens, we’re excited about the opportunities that using BI to enhance our guests’ experiences will bring.

Adoption requires strategy

But we don’t want to simply aggregate cool new tools to leverage BI. There are two other primary considerations when it comes to deploying BI technology: our people and our processes. Being successful means we have to have a strategy that accommodates disruptions to our current practices as well as attracts and develops talent that can manage and execute those practices.

An effective strategy starts with leadership. At MGM Resorts International, we carved out new roles (such as mine) to handle team management to guide adoption of digital tools and development of digital properties. Next, we must analyze our processes so that they meet technology adoption “rules.” For example, how and when will we share data reporting to cross-functional teams? Our tools must merge into legacy systems, not be implemented autonomously and individually. How do we approach this? Once we get our answers, we create processes that enable adoption.

For digital marketing purposes, we can buy a lot of tools to fit within our strategy. We can buy tools to communicate our messages and track responses. We can buy a tool that does social listening, a tool for Web development, and a tool that executes SMS messaging, but if those tools do not integrate collectively and don’t fit within our legacy systems, we’re faced with headaches trying to work those tools into our processes. I’m pretty sure many of the challenges we experience are shared across organizations and industries.

There is also the challenge of scale. As we grow digitally, we need to put processes in place that handle installation, configuration, and implementation for any tool. One of the most critical responsibilities I face as chief digital officer is selecting the right tools that will fit into our growth strategy. In our case, we look for tools that integrate smoothly. How seamlessly can we synchronize them to what we’re doing? If I’m approached by a vendor with a digital platform, the first question I’m asking myself is “how do we work your entire ecosystem into our business processes?”

People are key to effective BI use

This leads me to the second important consideration for adopting new tools: people. We need to have the right resources in place to really make BI work for us. Digital technology requires a certain amount of knowledge, skill sets, and experience from our teams. For example, at MGM, we leverage multiple Adobe Marketing Cloud solutions. Does our talent understand how Adobe Analytics works or how the Adobe Marketing Cloud tools work together to help deliver a rewarding experience for our guests?

As CDO, I’m constantly asking questions like “who is going to find data nuggets that will enable a beneficial relationship?” or “who can stage messaging that cascades along zones—geofences—within our resort properties?” or “who’s going to run this tool and who will manage its outcome?” The talent we onboard has to be able to execute our practices such as marketing campaigns and customer experiences while adapting to technology disruption. (Consequently, as part of their BI implementation, organizations should have clear expectations about training, internal support mechanisms, vendor support processes and other critical processes their people will require.)

Finally, we have to manage our human resources appropriately as we scale our BI implementation. Do we have the right number of team members to deploy these tools? For example, if we’re testing five different websites, we need to have adequate resources to develop, test and analyze results for all five sites. Not only do we need to have the right number of people, we’ve got to have appropriately skilled (and trained) team members to perform.

Three tips for successful BI implementation

  1. Attract and train the best people. With new opportunities to uncover and leverage BI unfolding each year, we want to be diligent in bringing qualified talent that is responsive to the demands of an organization, which is becoming more digitally mature through adoption of disruptive technologies.
  2. Develop processes that meet technology adoption. Look at your organization and ask “can we introduce a new BI capability without significantly disrupting our existing customer experience?”
  3. Acquire products that completely meet your needs. Evaluate product capabilities to uncover potential challenges. (Will it do what they say it will do? Will it require disruptive updating to scale? Will it merge with existing systems seamlessly?) Also, confirm vendor capabilities (Does it have sufficient track record for releasing quality products? Does it provide robust customer support? Does it provide user training?)

Above all, concentrate on your customer needs when it comes to implementing BI tools. Make sure your organization is positioned to deliver improved customer—in our case, guest—experience. There are some great analytics tools out there, but they won’t actually enhance that experience without great people behind the scenes. I’m confident that we have the right people at MGM Resorts International. Are you ready for what BI can do for you?