I hate these kinds of big pronouncements, like “The Future of Communications is Video,” or, well, “The Future of Communications is Data Analytics”…. But headlines are supposed to be short(ish), so in this hopefully rare instance, I’ll err on the side of grandiosity.
The thing is, I came away from Enterprise Connect 2019—and some subsequent conversations—convinced that data analytics are going to be an absolutely critical element of enterprise communications going forward. The reason is that communications is no longer just about enabling discrete sessions in which people connect, talk/text/video with each other, then disconnect. Communications is absolutely going to be embedded in the fabric of everything that enterprises do.
Joe Park, Chief Digital Architect and VP of Associate Digital Experience at Walmart, gave the most concise formulation of how this is going to work. In his EC19 keynote, Joe said: “At Walmart, we really believe that expression, ‘People led, tech empowered,’ and what’s foundational to all that is data.”
Joe went on to describe the ways in which Walmart plans to mine the data it has on workers (with appropriate governance in place), and integrate that data with the communications systems they use, in order to enrich the employee experience. You can see the details by watching the video of Joe’s keynote.
The topic of data analytics came up again in a conversation I had recently with an individual from a channel partner of one of the major communications platform vendors. He was describing some customer-facing integrations he’d been working on, including one in which his company can pull data from a geofencing deployment to detect when a premium customer comes on site. It then accesses the CRM system to learn the customer’s typical order, and sends an SMS asking if they’d like that order to be ready and waiting for them.
The best part of the conversation was the advice he offered about projects like this: Don’t wait until your dataset is ship-shape and in perfect order, he said. Start with what you want to do—the end result you want—and carve out a path through that mass of backend data that gets you to that point. Along the way, you’ll learn what needs to be cleaned up or standardized within your various datasets in order to make that particular project work. Because he’s a Chicago guy, he replaced the somewhat nonsensical “eat the whole elephant” metaphor that you sometimes hear, with an analogy about pizza: You don’t fold the entire pizza in half and start scarfing it down. You eat it one slice at a time.
We can’t remind ourselves enough about the wisdom of this approach to data. In the course of my career running an editorial website and then a conference/expo, I’ve been involved in many projects where we found ourselves trying to work with datasets, data warehouses, etc. It’s often the reflexive tendency to think that you’ve got to have the whole mass of data somehow perfectly rationalized and totally aligned and ready before anyone lays their grubby paws on it for actual applications. But it can’t be that way.
I really do believe this is going to be an important part of enterprise communication decision-makers’ lives in the not-too-distant future, if it isn’t already for you. It may seem like it wasn’t so long ago that voice and video people were realizing that they had to become IP networking experts. Then it was understanding the cloud, and now it’s APIs and the world of integrations that they open up—that’s how we get to the point where we care about data analytics.
It’s exciting, really. It’s also job security, and it’s integral to the same changes that we’re seeing play out in society beyond the enterprise walls. It’s worth embracing.