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5 ways to encourage more data-driven decision making

Author's avatar By Chris Soames 27 Feb, 2015
Essential Essential topic

Working with your HiPPO

Data / analytics can be both liberating and restrictive but the one thing it will always do and do well is ensure we remain commercially focused. I was at a clients HQ for the first time 2 weeks ago and this quote summarises my belief about business and why being commercially minded is fundamental to success: “We need freedom to shape our future; we need profit to remain free”. This quote is the one thing that can unite teams if understood and even help with the subject of my blog post. I spent a lot of my junior marketing days in data analysis tools like Omniture & Google helping to craft my story of how me / my team were performing and to show our contribution to the business, it rarely went as I expected in the early days, but I learnt and learned fast, here are 5 ways I found to help me that I still consider today when advising clients.


HiPPOs are our greatest opportunity and at the same time often the the one we feel suppress us and growth. Before we get into the 5 ways to help things let me quickly explain HiPPOs to you. A HiPPO is the company’s (or teams) Highest Paid Person and the vowel on the end stands for their Opinions. While these opinions are based on valuable experience it doesn’t go to follow that they are always the best call. Teams need HiPPOS. They’re assertive, experienced and didn’t get to where they are without a substantial dose of skill.  They have a strong will to keep their team on track, motivate them, champion innovation and drive culture.  There is a reason that they have got to where they are.  At the end of the day they are paid to make decisions and the rest of the business is paid to make them happen.

We can, however, create environments where we are all happy and the company wins too (win-win-win).

1. Remember data isn’t always accurate

Most HiPPO are experienced businesses men or women and unfortunately will have seen wrong data after wrong data in various presentations as people have either made mistakes, the sources were inaccurate or presenters have exaggerated. The thing to bear in mind is that while the data is exciting to a lot of us, it is a HiPPO purpose to ensure that it isn’t misguiding decisions or strategies. Any data you display should have clear annotations as to where the data came from and how it was validated.

2. Don’t make collecting data complex

Tools are great but they don’t give us answers. It might feel like a good idea to utilise more than one tool to track things like web analytics but unfortunately it's not true, pick one and stick with it, then at least you know you are always comparing apples with apples. By making things complex you will already make point one difficult and give yourself unnecessary choices to make when it comes to talking about data. Keep it simple and use specialised tools for specific requirements!

3. Always use comparisons

Competitor insights & Year on Year (YoY) comparisons are amazing ways to help give context to data. Remember not everyone that you speak to about data lives and breathes it so simple comparisons helping aiding discussions and gets people on the same page quickly. Your most powerful comparison however is performance against agreed objectives and performance indicators. At least if they were agreed as part of a plan they will already mean something to the HiPPO.  Other data comparisons or sources that are useful when taking to HiPPO include customer insights from surveys or A/B tests!

4. Tell a story, do not vomit data into PPT

We have all heard it before, “it's not a lot of work, just give me an overview”. There is very little truth in that saying, it is rare you can properly summarise something without first have got into the detail of it. You have to work hard to find the insights but it is worth the time, effort and devotion. As technology has advanced things do get faster and simpler but don’t under estimate good old elbow grease. Turning data into a story is not easy either, but you can find some tips on how to present your findings here. Ensuring that data is a regularly presented / displayed in appropriate so to get everyone used to seeing and using data! Final tip, never complete your data, insights & presentation in the same day, I would recommend significant breaks between each and even utilise other team members to check your work.

5. Find a common language and quick

It is easy to focus on ourselves, our own worries and stresses but lets not sit there and think we are the only one with problems and opportunities. Put yourself in the HiPPO shoes and think about what their pressures and concerns might be. The best thing you can do with HiPPO is ensure that you help them look better to their wider team or superiors depending on company setup. Orientate key outputs and actions around things you will know will help the HiPPO not yourself. When in the meeting, remember to ask questions, keep an open mind and bring the HiPPO into the discussion don’t just talk at them!

Whether you a data analyst, and all round digital marketer, a team leader or company owner I wish you luck on your data story telling endeavours, hopefully the above helps you on your way!

Author's avatar

By Chris Soames

Chris Soames is a Smart Insights blogger and consultant, he has worked in digital marketing for over 6 years with the last few years managing international web strategies for a leading travel brand. Now the Commercial Director at First 10, an Integrated marketing agency, he helps clients get clarity on their marketing strategy and create campaigns engineered to engage with their consumers to help drive sell-through. Most of all, Chris enjoys working with talented people who want to create great (& commercial) things not just tick boxes.

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