The C-Suite used to tolerate a little more ambiguity when it came to insights and market research. In a time before big data, they’d accept an insights team saying that the data “probably” means XYZ will happen.

Today, every company is blessed with an abundance of data, and as a result executives expect a higher degree of accuracy from their insights teams. And in many industries, the stakes have never been higher when it comes to turning customer data into improved customer experience – in fact, it’s mission critical and one of the ways brands will set themselves apart in the coming years.

However, many brands find themselves facing twin challenges: executives are demanding more precise data, but there’s too much data out there for them to analyze everything effectively.

CBS’ Radha Subramanyam, Chief Research Officer, spoke at the X4 Summit in Salt Lake City and explained how her team makes data gathered across 2,700 dashboards more tangible for senior leadership. To watch this session or the other top sessions from X4’s summits market research track, you can watch them on-demand here.

Here’s how you could do the same:

1. Solve the questions your executives are asking

What keeps your executives awake at night? For a television company exec, it’s simple: how many people will watch the network’s shows, and which new shows will be popular for a few years?

For CBS’ insights team, those are the questions they focus on, and it makes their data much more understandable to the C-Suite. After all, it’s easier for them to digest data when they can see how it applies to their short- and long-term concerns.

So don’t report on data unrelated to your executives’ concerns, and don’t ask your customers about things they have no control over. Otherwise you’re wasting your team’s time gathering and analyzing data that’s going nowhere.

2. Detract from the chaos by owning data collection and analysis

There’s so much noise around big data, it can be hard for execs to separate the wood from the trees. And more worryingly, companies are facing unheralded challenges in the collection, storage and usage of data – and execs are rightly worried whether their employees are doing everything by the book.

An insights team can help the C-Suite see the benefits of data by controlling the collection and analysis of data, then sharing the insights across the business in easy-to-use, user-based research insights dashboards.

 3. Summarize, summarize, summarize

One of Radha’s most impressive achievements at CBS is sending the executive team a daily email with 4-5 bullet point actions, based on the latest data. That’s 365 days a year, wherever she is in the world.

Radha says this kind of work is her definition of the insights role, as breaking down complex data into recommendations makes her team indispensable to the company.

4. Talk X and O data

Execs can get bogged down in copious amounts of O-data, telling them what’s happened in the past. For a TV exec, this might be last night’s viewing figures, or the number of minutes someone watches TV each night.

But to help your execs glean more actionable insights from data, you need to layer in X-data and make it clear how the two types of data correlate. Why did those 4 million people tune in to a TV show last night, and what would make them watch it again? Why did people switch off last night, and did something lose their attention?

You can get across to your C-Suite that data comes in all sizes and types, and there’s just as much value in X-Data as there is in O-Data as you can show execs the why behind the what.

5. Coach your team to give answers, not data

An insights team leader needs to get their team thinking about delivering recommendations, not technical analysis. So when they’re called upon by leadership for insight, they talk the execs’ language, not the language of data.

During her session, Radha talked about coaching her teams to do this, and allowing them to be uncomfortable early in the process. She let them work through the discomfort and learn for themselves how to break down data and present things in a user-friendly way.

6. Set expectations around AI

Many insights teams have difficulty explaining to their stakeholders what AI and machine learning are, and what they mean to the business. It’s important to showcase the benefits:

  • Text analysis and the ability to analyze open-ended questions
  • Advanced data analysis at speed and without the need for outsourced firms
  • Cutting down on menial tasks like data cleansing – saving time and money

But at the same time it’s important to demonstrate the limitations of AI, and that technology alone can’t make decisions for the business. Humans need to be there to garner insights from the data and take action.

7. Show efficiencies in data usage & analysis

Execs need to make decisions quickly and there’s a lot riding on every choice they make. You can help them make better, faster decisions by building insight libraries and leveraging old data.

This is what they’ve done at CBS. So when a TV executive is weighing up whether to commission a new show, Radha and her team can bring up to historic data and insights to suggest the right direction. For example, CBS might want to import a new reality show, but before they make the call, Radha and her team are there with all the research they’ve conducted on similar shows in the past.

Do you want to watch this session and the other top sessions taught at X4 Summit? Watch them on demand now.

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