MSS Spotlight: What Gets Measured Gets Managed: Building a Data-Driven Culture

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Today’s guest post is from Rob Schmults, Executive Board and Operating Partner at MidOcean Partners private equity. Rob has been a CommerceNext speaker and his background includes leadership roles at Talbots, Smart Destinations and GSI Commerce.


FTD CEO Charlie Cole gave a great keynote during the Marketing Summit Series on building a data-driven culture. I recommend you watch it in its entirety – it’s only 20 minutes (15 if you watch at 1.5x speed).

Charlie Cole shares tactics to guide you in building a data-driven culture.


He hit on roughly 10 takeaways all of which are worth considering and potentially incorporating as you think about how to build or expand a data-driven culture. There are three I want to highlight here.


  1. The need to understand your goals before you do anything else. This may sound self evident but many companies skip over this step. They get inspired by the story of another company’s success or hear a compelling vendor pitch and say “let’s do that. I want that.” This isn’t a short cut so much a mis-step and a potentially major one at that. You have to not only set goals so you know where you are trying to get to, but you must ensure they are YOUR goals—specific to your business model, your market, your constraints, and your opportunities. Otherwise you are unlikely to be headed to the right place for your business.
  2. Are you clear on the data that matters in your business? This is interlinked with the previous point, and unfortunately equally subject to muddle. This is worthy of a much deeper dive around how to get at the metrics that matter. But suffice to say each business has a finite set of metrics that not only provide clarity on the health of the business but also help with understanding where to apply effort and how that effort is paying back (or not). And while your business may have a similar set of KPI’s with others, the overlap is rarely total. Plus the relative importance of a given metric can vary greatly—even for businesses that seem highly similar. And of course what matters most can and likely will change over time.
  3. The power of fresh eyes. This is a great one to embrace broadly: even if you aren’t new, pull back and try to be new. This is because companies always end up in a place where they do things today largely because they also did them yesterday. New people don’t fall into this trap. That doesn’t mean everything has to be new every day, but it is important to continually test if what got you here is going to get you there. One easy place to try being new is reporting. What reports are people actually using? Is the data that matters presented in a user friendly and useful way? Is the data that matters obscured by a sea of tangential data surrounding it?  What data should people be using, but don’t have? Are data resources spending their time on the right things (see #1 and #2 above)? Using the fresh eyes approach in this way can often deliver a surprisingly valuable set of unlocks.

That’s a little more color on three of the points that Charlie makes in this presentation and I hope highlighting them is helpful as you build a data-driven culture at your company.