In this second instalment on digital transformation, we will be looking at the importance of using data-driven insights to unlock value for public and private entities. Data can help solve problems or determine if a solution is working – but only if you understand the context of the data in question.
We will be discussing the benefits and challenges of drawing value from data, and the processes that lead to success.
From data to insights
Using a data-driven approach isn’t a new idea, but due to the increased availability of data, more businesses are looking to leverage its power. Many businesses and organisations have already made a push to capture data, but it’s easy to miss the real value in it unless you have the skills required to understand how it relates back to behaviour and user needs.
It’s important to make sense of data and then turn it into something meaningful, for example creating a persona or a user journey map.
The benefits of unlocking value from data
We know from experience that being data-driven is essential and vital to success. Data allows us to understand user behaviour, set benchmarks and determine how to solve problems. It helps to quantify the scale of a problem) informs the approach we take to solving it and tells us if a solution is working. Without data, it’s difficult to understand if our assumptions are correct and delivering value.
The more data you have (when correct), the more accurately you can begin to distil those problems, and by focusing on solving the biggest challenges, you can improve success in the longer term.
The challenges of extracting insights from data
Typically, there are two main challenges of unlocking value from data: capturing the right data; and having the right skillset to analyse it.
- Capturing data - it’s important to capture data that provides a complete picture. From our experience, clients will often have data missing from key areas such as their Google Analytics tracking. Without data from all the different facets of a journey, you can’t fully understand it end to end. Thankfully, large technology platforms are building tracking tools into their systems, giving businesses and organisations access to data that is ethically collected, and GDPR compliant. Even anonymous data still provides an overall picture.
- Technical skills – some areas of data analysis require specialist skills that wouldn’t be cost-efficient to resource in-house. Teams often only have one product or site to manage; understanding is limited to what they have access to, with implementation often only happening once. This is where bringing in a specialist can help offer a broader set of analytical skills and experience. In many cases we conduct ethnographic research to observe user behaviour in a real-world situation and build this into discovery. One of the aspects clients often appreciate when working with us is that we work on different projects across a range of sectors, so we’re able to apply this previous experience to deliver innovation and find solutions that they may not have considered as a result.
Understanding data through discovery
When embarking on discovery, it’s important to first look at the information and research you already have, and include a wide range of business areas when sourcing data. Your teams hold specialist knowledge and a deep understanding of the common challenges they face in their day-to-day activity, so gathering data from internal stakeholders will offer a holistic view of the common issues and opportunities.
Data is valuable, but only when it’s analysed in the correct way. Using in-depth research, you can identify the key challenges faced by your business or organisation - by understanding user needs, technical requirements, internal governance, and any security considerations.
This approach helped us to unlock value for award-winning housebuilder, Hill, by exploring technical challenges, identifying user experience issues, and highlighting the opportunities available to improve the website’s content and user journey.
After reviewing existing brand research, we ran workshops with Hill’s team – examining the data they had around users, where they wanted to go in the future, and what differentiated Hill from its competitors. We were able to combine this with data around user behaviour, interactions with the website, responses from surveys, and qualitative information gathered. Through user testing, it was then possible to test the outputs and assumptions that were made based on that initial set of data from discovery.
Three important success factors when unlocking value from data:
Unpicking data can be challenging, but below are three key steps to doing just that, with examples of how we put this into practice using our work with Hill:
- Tie data and metrics to a business or organisation’s strategic objectives and goals. Once you understand their mission, you can create underlying goals that work towards this. For Hill, this was identified during the Goals & Metrics workshop held with key stakeholders. From this session we established Hill wanted to include deliver quality and engaging content for users, provide better navigation and content discovery, simplify the user journey, and promote the Hill brand and identity. We then determined the metrics that would be used to measure progress such as engagement – average time on page, brochure downloads etc, user satisfaction – quarterly surveys, on page ranking etc., and using heatmaps to track engagement with content, clicks, and scroll depth.
- Understand any distinct user behaviours, identify patterns in behaviours, and determine where the biggest opportunities are for change. With Hill, we used Google Analytics data to understand how people were using their web estate. Even at a basic level, it was clear users weren’t finding the right type of content and there was a much smaller proportion of users viewing information on property developments than expected. We established that due to Hill having many microsites regarding developments, traffic to the main site was reduced, and the brand was being diluted. Their high-profile developments weren’t being associated with Hill and users were unclear on the contractual agreements and aftercare. Using this information, we suggested bringing several of Hill’s microsites back to the main platform, taking into consideration how we could communicate partner relationships in the new platform’s branding. We also saw an opportunity to create a new members’ log in area to help support users and their onward purchase journey. This area would allow users to manage viewings, have access to brochures, and other valuable information to help them understand the next steps in the purchase journey. This would help provide an overall better user experience but also help Hill stand out beyond its competitors.
- Undertake testing and personalisation. Once there is an understanding of different user groups, their varied needs throughout an expected user journey across a site and across the touchpoints around the website, you can then create content that aligns with this understanding. Next you should consider what the users want at different points in their journey, and how best to implement this. Testing and personalisation is important because through user testing, A/B testing, and personalisation you can validate the different assumptions you’ve made about what will work for different users in different contexts. It’s only through real life application that you truly understand if something is working. Using the information and feedback gathered from users during our discovery with Hill, we could begin to map user journeys and create a hypothesis map of how users should experience Hill as a brand, centred around the main website.
The advantages of exploring data in a post-COVID world
Since the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge impact on the way people are consuming content and how they expect services to be delivered. There’s been a huge movement towards digitising paper-based processes to online services, such as buying a house, to make it easier for users. It’s widely accepted that this digitisation is something that is long overdue. Processes are being made more transparent and easier for people, which improves user experience. For example, removing the requirement to go to a solicitor’s firm to sign a document - something you can’t do in a COVID-19 world.
Businesses may realise they should look at opportunities to digitalise a service, but data helps us understand the best way to do so and can uncover what will deliver value, and how we can improve an existing service. The first time you ever do something isn’t necessarily always the best way to do it – there will always be unforeseen issues in the process of developing something new like a digital service.
In a post-COVID world, businesses and organisations should be delving into the data that best helps them understand the needs of its users, and then determine how they can deliver the best possible services for them in the long-term.
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