Here's how to make your organization data-driven
In our data-driven world, you as an executive can no longer avoid it either. What is the value of data-driven work in your organization? What knowledge do you need to have in order to use big data effectively? Randy Soet (Achmea): 'Curiosity is more important than technical skills'.
From large insurers to the bakery around the corner, no organization can get around data, says Randy Soet. He is manager of Payments & Data at insurer Achmea, which includes Centraal Beheer, Interpolis and Zilveren Kruis.
'In order not to overproduce, the local baker keeps track of how many loaves he bakes and sells in a day. If the croissants are always out on Sundays, and the customers dissatisfied, he responds accordingly. In large organizations, it's about the same thing: Am I experiencing a problem, can I quantify it, and in what way can I use data to find solutions?' As a company, you don't want to be a Kodak. 'That camera manufacturer didn't believe in digital photography as the latest innovation and missed the boat. Now Kodak no longer exists.'
Understanding your customer
At Achmea, data-driven work is central. 'It's about how we can use data to improve internal business processes, and how we can use data to serve our customers better.'
Soet and his team are responsible for all payment transactions to and from 10 million customers. 'These transactions generate an awful lot of data: about customers, products and business processes. Dashboards give us better insight into our processes and our customers' payment behavior. How much was paid on time? How many premiums are open?
By using data, we can, for example, better help customers make payment arrangements. We also make data available so that customers can look up information themselves more quickly in a my-environment. Achmea wants to be a digital insurer. Data is an asset here and is prominent in our business strategy.'
Predicting the future
Over the last decade, the insurer has been betting on data analytics. 'That you don't just get static insights from data, but can use it to make predictions.' Take Interpolis' Burglary Barometer. 'With information from the past, we can predict what the burglary risk of your neighborhood is. We give customers proactive advice on how to prevent burglaries.'
Not to get them to take out insurance, but to prevent damage. 'Our customer relationship is improving. And we are building on the social impact you can realize as a company with data.'
What skills employees need to work with data? 'Analytical ability, you have to be able to make connections. In a report, you have to be able to notice that something is going on, and be able to investigate what's behind it. Oversee the whole chain. Not get stuck in your own role, but also have an eye for what happens before and after you in the organization.'
A technical background is not necessary - Soet himself is a lawyer by trade. 'Curiosity about new technology is a must, though. That you want to know what data could mean for your team, organization or client.'
When Soet became manager of the data team, he literally sat down next to his people to ask: let's see what you do. 'I engaged in conversation, wanted to know what the team members were up against. By being open to other people and other knowledge, you can spar with data scientists without having to be one yourself.'
Learning agility is indispensable. 'The ability to learn new things and turn them into effective behavior. The more agile you are, the easier it is to deal with change and new situations.'