Data of the Festive Season

by Sue Geuens

2012 has come and gone and we are already more than half the way through the month of January 2013.

Spending time with your family and friends is a distant memory. People who received presents they didn’t like have already exchanged them for something they do like. People who have been away on vacation are already back, mostly in the swing of work and in a lot of cases, already dreaming of their next holiday.

What interests me though is the amount of analytical data that is out there in the ether and available for further analytical assessment. It is a never-ending stream of information – how many people, spent how much money and what gifts for what group of people. How many people went into how much debt over what period of time to ensure their loved ones received a gift they wanted. The shops give out information on how many people came through their doors – daily, weekly, monthly during the festive season. The shops also gave a “somewhat approximate” idea of their takings during those days. And for countries that have the “day after” sales, there is even more statistical data available.

What I would like to find out though – is how much of this data, especially the shopping data can be tied by to the individual – or more specifically – ME as an individual? Do the shops that I was buying from keep a record of who I am? Did they keep a record of what I purchased? Could they analyze who I bought these items for.

For example, our 10 (just) year old asked Santa Claus for a 24” bicycle with gears. He had been cycling to school and back with his brother and sister on a 20” BMX without gears, so was often the lone little boy way behind the other two bigger kids. The reason I am thinking of this is because if the shops knew I had purchased this bicycle for a 10 year old, they should be able to work out that during the next 3 years I would need to replace it with a 26” – kids grow at a fairly average rate and a 10 year old spurts as he hits 12 or 13 and is ready for the next bike up. If the shop understood this and wanted my repeat business, they need to make it their priority to make sure I return in 3 years time to repeat my purchase of a bicycle. At the same time, they should take advantage of knowing I have a bicycle to offer me spare parts, etc as time goes by. After all – everyone knows that 10 year old boys are not the most careful of creatures – this specific bicycle has already had 3 punctures; needed an adjustment to the brakes in the form of new brake pads (he lost one somewhere); has had a carrier attached to it and the tyres already show wear and tear. He is extremely happy with his bicycle though and rides day in and day out – even on the weekends his best moments are spent on his bicycle with his friends.

What makes this even more imperative for the shop though is the next piece of information. Hubby and I have recently moved into a security golf estate (we are building our dream house there). The pace of life is very different; the security is exceptional and I conned hubby into purchasing bicycles for both of us. Now if the shop where we bought the bicycle for the 10 year old had taken advantage of this information – which they knew as they had delivered something to me just before this – they may have considered that we might want to get our own bicycles and go riding with our kids in a neighbourhood extremely conducive to this.

I guess what I am thinking of and wondering about is why do these kinds of shops NOT take advantage of the data that is at their fingertips? Is it the current drive to keep personal data and information so private that nobody has the right to use it for any purposes? Is it pure laziness? Is it perhaps that there are not enough data professionals who actually know how to make use of this data?

Whatever the reason, I do believe that the future of shopping will lie in understanding your customers preferences and making sure that these preferences can be met when they a) walk in through your front door and b) access your online shop in the comfort of their own home.

By the way – we actually ended up purchasing the cycles for hubby and myself from another shop. We did try the first shop  – not only was there no stock of ANY bicycle, they shrugged their shoulders and could not tell us when new stock would arrive.

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Sue Geuens

Sue started in Data Management during 1996 when she was offered the opportunity to start up an IT department at the National Home Builder’s Registration Council (NHBRC). During the previous year she had become responsible for the list of registered builders and chose to make this list into a database – thus taking the first tentative steps into Data Management. She quickly became aware that data was a key asset for this organisation and over the next few years assisted a team of application builders to design and develop the first end-to-end paperless system for the NHBRC, cutting down registration time from 30 days to around 5 days. On leaving, she kept moving further and further into various data roles with organisations where her clients numbered 3 of the top 4 banking institutions in SA, a number of telco’s and various pension fund, insurance companies and health organisations. Sue was the initial designer of data quality matching algorithms for a South African built Data Quality and Matching tool (Plasma Mind). This experience has stood her in good stead as she has slowly but surely climbed the ladder in Southern Africa to become the first CDMP in the country. DAMA I came to her notice in about 2004 when she was searching for an organisation of like-minded data professionals in South Africa. However it was only during 2005 that she met up with some South Africans with a similar mission. They decided to work on starting up DAMA SA and established the initial non-profit entity with some of the current board roped in as directors. Sue took the initiative in 2006 and was accepted to present a paper at the DM & IQ European Conference. Meeting up with the DAMA I directors enforced her belief and need to have a chapter in Southern Africa, and she returned from this conference determined to work on this goal. Finally obtaining sponsorship, DAMA SA’s Inaugural meeting was targeted for February of 2009. Over 150 people attended this event and she had her first opportunity to address South African Data Management professionals as the new DAMA SA President – forgetting to introduce herself. From that time on Sue has been the leader and driving force of the DAMA SA Board. DAMA SA has grown from strength to strength well supported by a strong Board of Directors. Sue has been to a number of DAMA I conferences and offers presentations and papers each year. For EDW 2008 in San Diego, she sat on the Committee for Speaker Selection and was also lucky enough to present a paper that year. She has worked hard to maintain a relationship with the DAMA I Board members and offered her services in any capacity a number of times taking up the role of VP Operations from the middle of 2010 shadowing the outgoing VP and finally taking up the full rains in the beginning of 2011. During her time as DAMA SA President she has constantly and consistently worked with the Board to ensure that the vision, mission and goals of DAMA SA and DAMA I are aligned. She adheres to the DAMA I Code of Ethics at all times and has worked long and hard on designing policies and procedures for DAMA SA that reflect these ethics. In her role as deputy to the VP Operations, she has the opportunity to share the work that is being done on the DAMA SA board with DAMA I. She is making a positive contribution and has managed (as usual) to raise questions and ideas from the point of view of a non-US organisation. In Southern Africa, Sue is already well known on the subject of Data Management and finds herself often being asked to give presentations at local conferences AND talk to many organisations about their Data Management Maturity. 

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