Ruben Ugarte is founder of Practico Analytics, providing expertise in data analytics. He has worked with companies on five continents and in all company stages, helping them to use data to make higher quality decisions, boost performance, increase profitability and make their teams world-class. He maintains a popular blog with more than 100,000 readers. His new book is The Data Mirage: Why Companies Fail to Actually Use Their Data (Business Expert Press, January 22, 2021). Learn more at rubenugarte.com.
Q: What’s your background, and what are you working on?
My background is an engineer, but I spend most of my time working with non-technical teams and executives. I have found that data lives in two worlds: it is highly technical and used by everyone. I'm currently working on my second book — focused on decision making — and launching new services around helping companies ride the COVID-19 recovery using their data.
Q: What data can and cannot do for companies?
Data can support decisions and point you in the right direction. If you were stuck in a cave, data could be the flashlight showing what's coming up. However, it would help if you still made decisions where you might not have enough data. You will need to take risks and decide which turns to take to get out of the cave. The biggest challenge I see with companies is an overreliance on data to the point where executives can't make decisions until all the numbers are, which could be too late.
Q: What are the biggest challenges to implementing a data strategy?
There are 3 major challenges to think about. First, how are people actually going to use the data? Second, how is the data going to be converted into insights? Third, what technology is needed to make all of this happen? I call this the 3Ps: People, Process, and Providers.
Q: What the best companies in the world do with their data?
They make it available everywhere. It's not just stuck in dashboards. They are sending summaries via email, notifications through Slack, allowing people to download raw formats, setting up weekly meetings to discuss it, and anything else that can get data in front of people at the right time.
Q: How to determine the best tools for your product or industry?
I like to start by determining what questions need to be answered. Companies may be interested in understanding marketing attribution or where marketing dollars are being spent. Perhaps there's a need for better visualization or to optimize the sales process. From there, I choose 2 - 3 tools that could help with each question. I personally stick to established players because I know they will be production-ready, likely to integrate with other tools, and cover a wide range of use cases.
Q: How to uncover actionable insights from your data?
There are 3 strategies that you could start with today. First, forget averages and focus on segments. An average purchase value of $50 is great, but I'm more interested in the customers who spent $100, $200, or $500. Second, who are the top 10% of your customers? What are their characteristics, demographics, behaviors, etc.? I'm not as interested in the bottom 10% as they will likely be wildly different from each other. Third, what trends exist in the data? Look for any KPIs that are increasing (even slowly) for potential shifts in consumer behavior.