“With 20 years of technical and business experience, Michael understands both the machine side and human side of the equation.”
Chris Wackerman, CEO, DataPatrol
Big Nimble provides a range of strategic data-centric advice to a diverse range of clients, from startups to established companies.
Michael Kauffman’s work is always nimble, tailored to the culture of each client, and, of course, subject to the confidentiality one would expect from an experienced attorney.
In Search of Big Data, Finding Answers Within
A B2B membership-based company was slowly but consistently losing clients and decided to turn to Big Data to see why. In searching for a Big Data solution, the company confronted the common pain points of large up-front investment and vendor fixation with whiz-bang technology that ignored the company’s specific problems, data and skill sets. After several false starts, the company retained Big Nimble.
Michael’s first step was to ensure everyone from the CEO on down had the same definition of “data-driven” and of success. Everyone agreed on the need to reverse ongoing client loss, but beyond this, there was no company-wide definition success. In private consultations with the CEO and through several roundtable discussions, Michael facilitated stakeholder agreement that overall revenues were more important than total client count, and, specifically, client life-time revenues, measured annually, would be the company-wide metric of success.
Michael next oversaw an enterprise-wide data audit to unearth the following for each data asset: quantity, quality, update frequency, ownership and global unique identifiers. With this first 360-degree view of their data, Michael showed how virtually every client contact left a digital fingerprint ripe for data-driven decision making. With Michael’s help, the company designed its first Full Client Profile based on: web journeys, online requests, phone logs, newsletter and whitepaper downloads and shares, conference attendance, referral tracking, client contribution to lobbying efforts, and a department-to-client employee matrix that provided per-client, per-service revenue.
The biggest insight? That the Events Department, contrary to being the money loser the company had thought, was, in fact, the company’s stickiest offering – clients that sent at least two attendees to the annual conference had the highest life-time revenues, measured annually, both overall and for each market segment. The company abruptly shelved any plans to shrink or eliminate the Events Department and looked to replicate Event’s stickiness in all other contacts with clients.
On the anniversary of the Full Client Profile, Michael returned to provide two additional services: 1) use Big Data to comb through massive public data assets, such as news articles, regulatory filings, SEC documents and lawsuits dockets that, when combined with a client’s Full Profile, provided dramatic and powerful predictions of when client would increase engagement and willingly purchase additional services, and 2) helped the company identify and hire its first Chief Data Officer.
The company’s experience was a perfect example of the power of data-driven decision making using existing data before looking to Big Data. By using existing data, the company:
- Saved big on upfront costs.
- Got immediate results by working with existing technology and data.
- Got immediate predictive insight because existing data went back years and years.
Confidential Evaluation of Executive Team Member
A recently-appointed CEO was seeking an experienced business advisor regarding a member of his management team, the CIO. The CIO kept requesting resources but didn’t seem to be producing results. But without any technology background, the CEO had no idea if insufficient resources was the problem (as the CIO claimed) or was it bad management, or something else.
Michael was brought in as a confidential advisor to discreetly assess the situation and make recommendations. After interviews with management, IT and a range of users, it was clear that IT was being run largely as a playground for the CIO’s personal priorities. Two corrosive cultures were making this possible: 1) a culture inside of IT that valued whiz-bang technology over solving users’ problems and 2) a culture outside of IT of low expectations. To make any long lasting change, both had to be fixed.
Michael recommended retention of a new CIO. At the CEO’s request, Michael acted as interm-CIO to establish a new business-centric culture until a permanent CIO could be found.
Michael left to his successor a transparent and responsive business-centric culture, both inside and outside IT, along with a 5 year plan to transform IT from a cost-center to a competitive advantage.
Big Data Gave You “The Answer”. Now What?
A Vice President of Operations was tasked with implementing Big Data for a services company. But when Big Data revealed some uncomfortable results, the VP faced resistance – including the CEO who had championed Big Data. The most intractable problem was Big Data’s revelation that the sales team compensation model worked against good customer service and the company’s overall mission and bottom line. But the CEO, who came from sales, wouldn’t budge.
Michael met with the VP of Operations, the CEO and various stakeholders – first individually, and then collectively – to understand each executive’s perception of what “Big Data” was supposed to do. As is common, most of them expected (or just hoped) Big Data would reveal low-cost, high-profit insights that only required a tweak here or an adjustment there. The reality is that Big Data can often put dollar amounts on the pro’s and con’s of long-standing internal conflicts, bringing those conflicts to the surface.
Michael placed the Big Data insights in a business context and guided the executive team through the choices of being gut-driven or data-driven. After some frank but long-overdue internal discussions, the company revamped the sales and account management compensation structure to align everyone’s interest, including, specifically, reducing the over-promising by sales that had long plagued the company with high client turnover. The immediate results were lower cost per customer, higher profit per customer and vastly improved relations between sales and account management. Moreover, the company settled on employee retention and product design as the next focus areas for Big Data.
Using Data, Stopping Waste
A regional services company was renegotiating its 3-year $1,500,000 IT service contracts and management had a hunch a better deal was possible. A much better deal. But it would require a skilled negotiator with both technical knowledge and a keen understanding of how users actually used technology.
Michael was brought in to negotiate lower contracts without jeopardizing existing relationships. Michael first reviewed thousands of hours of software usage and identified two opportunities for improvement: 1) pay only for exactly those products and services which were actually used, which Michael estimated would save about 20%, and 2) get most aggressive on price where there was overlap between vendors for similar or identical offerings, which Michael estimated would save roughly 25%.
Management’s hunch has been right: they were overpaying. By a lot. As an attorney who negotiated for a living, Michael was able to secure the next 3 years of service contracts — which were more aligned with actual usage — for only $650,000, for a savings of around $850,000. Better technology, less than half the cost.
Bridging the Gap From Overhyped Technology To Actual Results
A company’s attempt to understand and implement a Big Data solution resulted in a Big Mess — specifically, conflicting Big Data software packages that couldn’t talk to each other or existing systems, for a very expensive ROI of zero. The CEO had lost faith in his IT team to move from managing networks and databases to understand data as a strategic asset.
Michael conducted an enterprise-wide data audit to evaluate the alignment of the company’s strategic data needs with its current data assets and IT expertise. Based on the results, Michael worked to bridge the culture gap between IT and management to pivot the culture of decision making away from gut-driven and towards data-driven, with new responsibilities and roles for both IT and management.
At completion, Michael had:
- facilitated consensus on which of the 5 Big Data technologies matched the company’s strategic objectives and current IT capabilities,
- used his legal and tech backgrounds to help IT select and negotiate with Big Data vendors to ensure that vendor’s delivered on their promises, and
- established continuing metrics to position the company to target appropriate Big Data talent and exploit new Big Data technologies going forward.