Treat Data as a Product Like Cars: Assign a Product Manager
Europe is proclaiming the arrival of a data-centric world, yet its business community remains hesitant. What’s going wrong? Instead of European companies, hyperscalers from the US and China are driving innovation in the cloud (Clemons et al. 2019). At the 2019 Digital Gipfel, her excellence German Chancellor Merkel is urging German companies to catch up: “We are behind schedule […] Substantial financial resources must be invested to [catch up …]. If we let this element of value creation be taken out of our hands, then it will be a rude awakening for Germany as an industrial country” (Merkel 2019, https://youtu.be/DYlxCYYMBxI?t=635, at 10:35 and 13:17 respectively).
How to kickstart data-centricity in business? How to flip the switch? One trick would be to treat it as “business-as-usual.” Don’t treat data as an alien, instead of handling it as a traditional product like cars for example – and Germany is excellent at cars. Apply tried-and-true management solutions and best practice to win with data. A first step would be “Product Management,” assign a true product manager for data.
This is an insight shared by Crosby & Schlueter Langdon in a brief summary for the American Marketing Association: “Managers who are conceptualizing data as a product can maximize its multi-functional potential” (2019). The authors summarize their observations as data scientists and business executives working with a wide range of companies and in high-profile studies, such as “The Wall Street Journal Management Top 250″ (2018):
- “Companies can benefit from conceptualizing data as a product. Borrowing from the software industry, data marketers should adopt the modern view of product management as a multi-functional, continuous-loop, customer-centric discipline.”
- “Product management isn’t new, with roots dating back to the 1930s at Procter & Gamble. Within the last decade or so, it has gone through a metamorphosis driven largely by the digital revolution. The tech industry has helped elevate the role of the product manager to that of a mini-CEO.”
- The process: “Data products begin with a novel idea. […] The next major phase involves the design and testing of a [data] prototype. […] The next issue concerns the methods by which customers may access the data. This is analogous to retail channel decisions in product marketing. […] The next phase of the process might be called ‘scale-up and automation’ [ … in a] data factory.”
- “Career opportunities exist in these firms for young, tech-savvy marketers who are willing to step up and help define the product manager’s role.”
- “Data is already at the epicentre of consumer marketing, from digital customer journeys to voice-based user interfaces, virtual assistants and personalized recommendations.”
- Clemons, E.K., H. Krcmar, S. Hermes, and J. Choi. 2019. American Domination of the Net: A Preliminary Ethnographic Exploration of Causes, Economic Implications for Europe, and Future Prospects. 52nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS), DOI: 10.24251/HICSS.2019.737
- Crosby, L., and C. Schlueter Langdon. 2019. Data is a Product. American Marketing Association, Marketing News (April), https://www.ama.org/marketing-news/data-is-a-product/
- Merkel, A. 2019. Speech at Digital Gipfel (2019-11-29), https://www.bundeskanzlerin.de/bkin-de/aktuelles/rede-von-bundeskanzlerin-merkel-beim-digital-gipfel-am-29-oktober-2019-in-dortmund-1686444
- The Wall Street Journal. 2019. Management Top 250, https://www.wsj.com/articles/whats-behind-the-wall-street-journal-management-top-250-1543584554?mod=ig_managementtop2502018