Complex Made Simple

Should we, can we, really trust data?

Trust is now a defining factor in a brand’s success or failure.

Indeed, trust underpins reputation, customer satisfaction, loyalty and other intangible assets. It inspires employees, enables global markets to function, reduces uncertainty and builds resilience.

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However, in an increasingly digital world, should Middle East marketers trust the data and analytics that underpin their most critical business decisions? And if so, how?

The problem is that – in today’s environment – trust isn’t just about the quality of an organization’s brands, products, services and people. It’s also about the trustworthiness of the data and analytics that are powering its technology.

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“The thing with trust is that it has to be earned. That means, it’s a two-way street — those using and providing the data need some comfort that what its being used for will ultimately be mutually beneficial. The recent Facebook data scandal, where if a user understood that playing a simple quiz would alter what they see on their newsfeed forever, is an example of one-way, and ultimately damaging, relationship with data,” maintains Paul Kelly, Principal, Digital Ape.

According to a report by KPMG International, Guardians of trust, C-suite executives have questioned the trustworthiness of data, analytics and intelligent automation.

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From hype to humble reality

In a high-speed, highly digitized world, trust that has taken years to build can be destroyed almost instantly. Amid the rise of machines, organizations require trust not only in their brands and people but also in their data and analytics.

Getting this right is not something that any enterprise can claim to have mastered, KPMG report notes.

The Guardians of trust survey questioned 2,190 global senior business decision makers involved in setting the direction for data and analytics from nine countries.

Ninety-two percent admitted they are worried about the reputational damage that inappropriate use of analytics could cause for their organization.

Is measurement easy?

While the digital age creates opportunities, it also creates new concerns that can undermine trust across industries and our society as a whole.

For example, constant news of data breaches, data misuse and inaccuracies is eroding public trust. What’s more, technology-driven disruptions can fuel increased nationalism and protectionism as the media predicts job losses and redundancies due to automation.

There also is concern that the benefits of digital transformation will not be evenly distributed, therefore worsening disparities between the haves and the have-nots.

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“Taking business decisions based on marketing analytics is rarely as straightforward as it seems,” Alex Slix, Managing Director, Slixdigital, Dubai.

“Some things are quite obvious – for example, if I put more money into certain types of advertising and I get more quality leads, then my spending decisions are based on some pretty solid fundamental data,” he adds.

“Measuring things like brand strength, however, is never easy,” Slix adds.

“While leads come off the back of such content and that then is easy to measure, what about the general brand-strengthening value of that content? How do you measure that? Is it based on views, engagement such as comments or likes on social, media syndication of the content, etc.?”

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So who is to blame?

When asked who should hold responsibility for poor analytics-led business decisions, Guardians of trust respondents said even more of the blame should move over from the business to technology roles.

In summary, gone are the days when IT can be the catchall for anything related to technology. Instead, it’s time for the core business to take responsibility for its analytics and AI — and ensure quality, effectiveness, integrity and resilience.

This article first appeared in AMEinfo’s sister publication, GMR