Chief Information Officer

Pearson VP Discusses Digital Shifts in Data Analytics, Strategy and Innovation

John Behrens, Vice President of Advanced Computing and the Data Science Lab at Pearson, explored the true value of data for today’s organizations in his keynote presentation to Argyle’s CIO membership at the 2018 Information Technology Leadership Forum: Data Strategy & Innovation in Chicago on February 28. In his presentation, “Beyond Analytics: Data Strategy and Innovation in Light of Five Digital Shifts,” Behrens explained how data, analytics and intelligence can be key sources of business opportunities or unexpected disruptions for all departments across an organization.

Many organizations understand the importance of data and analytics, yet few organizations realize their full value. In most instances, organizations collect data but fail to use it to understand why customers select one brand over another or how customers are interacting with a business. This often causes organizations to lag behind the competition.

An organization must adapt its approach to data and analytics to succeed in a fierce global marketplace. If an organization can deploy digital technologies effectively, it may be able to use data to learn about its target audience and build long-lasting customer partnerships.

According to Behrens, the five digital shifts that are driving changes in the nature of data, analytics and intelligence are:

1. Rethinking and Recognizing That Everything Digital Is Data

In the past, business professionals viewed data as a way to evaluate a company’s performance over an extended period of time. Both structured and unstructured data was available, and businesses were responsible for reviewing this information and generating meaningful insights from it. If companies were successful, they could use data to make informed predictions and develop data-driven business goals. 

Today’s business professionals must allocate significant time and resources to perform data analysis, however, due to the fact that data comes from myriad sources.

“We used to think about data in the sense of performance outcomes. But now, everything digital is data,” Behrens said. “Data is more than just clicks … and you need to bring your business leaders to see that everything digital is data.”

Business professionals must be ready to learn from all of the data at their disposal. By doing so, these professionals can find innovative ways to connect with customers and foster long-lasting partnerships with them.

2. Interaction Creation

How business professionals interact with customers may have far-flung effects on a company.

“We used to think about data in the sense of performance outcomes. But now, everything digital is data.”

If business professionals embrace every opportunity to connect with a target audience, these professionals can optimize the value of customer interactions. Comparatively, business professionals who ignore mobile, social and other rapidly evolving channels risk missing out on opportunities to help a company build trust with its target audience.

“The digital world is moving from static content to high-degree interaction,” Behrens stated. “Interactions generate data, and interactions will lead to the value of getting closer to the customer and better serving the customer.”

Business professionals must view customer interactions as learning opportunities. That way, business professionals can evaluate a wide range of criteria relative to customer interactions and map out their customer engagement strategies accordingly.

“Think about the nature of the interaction as well as the length and size of it,” Behrens recommended.

3. Digital as a Process

The process of incorporating digital technologies into a company’s everyday operations is ongoing.

Digital technologies are readily available, but new technologies are evolving. As such, businesses must be ready to adapt to new technologies as needed.

“We need to really think about how we’re rethinking what’s possible,” Behrens indicated. “We need to learn from data quickly and rapidly.”

4. Analytics as Knowledge Creation

Deploying analytics tools is insufficient for today’s businesses. Conversely, business professionals must implement systems that enable a company to build a comprehensive knowledgebase over time.

“Interactions generate data, and interactions will lead to the value of getting closer to the customer and better serving the customer.”

With the ability to collect and review massive amounts of data, a company can identify customer patterns and trends. This business then can apply data insights to its everyday customer engagement efforts, increasing the likelihood of positive customer interactions.

“Analytics as knowledge creation is something that happens because of the permanence of data,” Behrens said. “We’re able to build knowledge back into computational systems and use it iteratively.”

5. Naturally Emergent Intelligent Systems

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming the way that businesses collect and analyze data. These technologies make it simple for businesses – regardless of size or industry – to automate data analysis. As a result, companies can establish naturally emergent intelligent systems to simplify and enhance data analysis and gain extensive customer insights faster than ever before.

Business professionals can establish processes to teach machines how to collect and analyze data. With these processes in place, companies can use naturally emergent intelligent systems to get the most out of data analysis. 


John T. Behrens is Vice President and leader of the Advanced Computing and Data Science Lab at Pearson, the world’s largest learning and education company.  John creates high impact business value by applying advances in the computational, cognitive and data sciences to pressing product and business process needs.  Behrens previously held global product innovation, development, and management responsibilities in the high-tech sector.  He has published more than 50 scholarly publications in areas related to data science, system personalization, and learning science and is an Adjunct Assistant Research Professor (by courtesy) at the University of Notre Dame.

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