Big Data and Emerging Technologies were the two themes at this years FT Innovate 2012 conference. Speakers including Tesco’s CEO Phil Clarke, Accenture Management Consulting MD Aimie Chapple and Lady Gaga Manager Troy Carter gathered in London to debate the importance of innovation and the need to implement innovative cultures in corporate environments.
Tesco’s new CEO Phil Clarke kicked off by highlighting the importance that innovation had played in taking his supermarket from being “third biggest in the UK, to the second biggest in the world.” Clarke told the assembled audience that success today depends on innovation. And that innovation only succeeds when organisations have the right mindset. Moonfruit founder Wendy Tan reaffirmed this message later on when she said that, “innovation is also about innovating the organisation.”
Technology empowered the customer and client. We live in a connected society where, as Clarke said, “technology has made the customer more powerful than ever before.” This connectivity, especially through social media has given people the ability to ”make or destroy brands in minutes.”
Focusing on Big Data Clarke reminded us that Tesco itself has huge amounts of data on its customers. According to it’s own Annual Report, Tesco Clubcard has over 44 million active members around the world – 16 million accounts in the UK, 7 million Europe and over 20 million across Asia.
It is the data from it’s Clubcard loyalty scheme, which next year in 2013 be celebrating it’s 10th anniversary, that according to Clarke enables Tesco to “continually improve the customers shopping experience.”
But, as Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster Francis Maude MP reminded us, “Data is the raw material of the digital age.” Its application has yet to be maximised in business processes. In fact, as I’ve argued many times data is useless unless you know what to do with it.
In PR and communications data can deliver insight an enhance engagement with stakeholders. It delivers knowledge and can prepare brands when an issue catches fire. Equally, it helps organisations to find their influencers. But as BAE Systems Liz O’Driscoll pointed out, there is a need to distil data into information. This will become a key skill for those in communications professions.
IDEO Founder Thom Thulme summed it all up when it came to data, ”Data is best organised around customer journey’s. It helps generate empathy with users.”
But what about the future? Philips Chief Design Officer and Vice President pushed told us a cold hard fact. That there will be “50 Billion connected devices by 2020, that’s more than 6X global population.” That establishes a requirement for real-time reaction from people, companies and brands. No longer we will be able to afford to be late in our communications.
And while we talk about data and social networks, we need to move away from thinking in numbers of fans on Facebook. Lady Gaga Manager Troy Carter hit the nail on the head when he described Facebook as a large, passive and diluted community. A platform that has not been designed for fans. And I would argue is not even designed for engagement. Or at least engagement in a format that pleases people.
The world has shrunk. People want to be treated as individuals. They want to interact in real-time. They want to be heard and rewarded now. They do not want a one-size fits all network.
Technology is as much about people as it is about processes. Some think that data and technology allows us to better exploit the consumer. This is wrong. Data and technology, together with professionals that understand people, will help businesses to better serve people.