How to Make B-to-B Data Dance
The tough part, she says, is shopping for the right data-mining solution. "Get referrals, see the tool in action, and hire a consultant only if you don't have the time and the people to do it yourself."
What to Do With All of the Information. Data mining can give you too much data if you don't refine what you're looking for, warns Maxwell. When she first came to Interline Brands, she says, "We had so much data you could choke on it." This can create information overload, or "analysis paralysis," as she calls it. She suggests before you do data analysis, ask the following questions:
• What business decisions do you want to make with it?
• Who's going to be looking at the data?
• And why are you doing this analysis?
Then, she says, you can create a discipline of not asking for what you don't need. Another important step is to create a baseline of what was before so you can track the trends. At Interline Brands, she says management had previously put all of these data decisions into the hands of the marketing managers, resulting in a lack of centralization. "Now we use a team and first talk through what's really important, as well as what can we eliminate."
Don't Forget Implementation. The first step in implementation, she says, is to find the right technology. "You need an outside system to integrate with the internal systems like order processing and invoicing." It's never as simple as vendors claim to find and implement the right solution, she adds.
The second challenge is to get people to use the tool. "And this goes beyond software training," Maxwell says, noting that a culture change is needed. "Management must focus on it. They need to stay continually involved in the project." She urges catalogers to be sure their staffs have not only the right tools but the time to use them.