Mu Sigma hosted its Fourth Annual Customer Summit at the grand Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, California on 26th and 27th February, 2012. This was the first time the Customer Summit had been held outside Mu Sigma's home city of Chicago, and the picturesque coastal town did not disappoint.
Mu Sigma's 2012 Customer Summit broke all attendance records: more than 150 clients and over 50 Mu Sigma representatives travelled to Half Moon Bay for the event. Business cards were not the only things exchanged – these business leaders and analytics practitioners shared ideas, thoughts, perspectives, trends, challenges and solutions during this two day event. It was, as one attendee described it, "an incredible brain trust" of analytics pros.
The event kicked off on Sunday, 26th February, with an informal seaside cocktail hour. This was followed by a pre-dinner reception during which Dhiraj Rajaram, the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Mu Sigma, hosted a fireside chat with Alfred Lin of Sequoia Capital. During this interactive session, Lin touched upon the three main factors he looks for when evaluating a potential investment: a unique value proposition, an untapped market with tremendous future potential, and a management team with a passion for the business. The dinner that followed allowed attendees a chance to network with peers across verticals.
Day two began with a keynote by William Coughran, a seasoned computer scientist (and former Google executive) who has helped many firms build successful analytics centric organizations. Coughran spoke about the impact of Big Data on companies, and also provided advice on how to attract and retain analytics talent. A key takeaway from his presentation was to ensure that we give our analytics staff the time and opportunity to pursue discovery-driven analytics projects, not just problem-driven initiatives.
The keynote address was followed by clients taking center stage, providing their points of view on the most notable subjects in the analytics space.
Representatives of a leading bio pharma company shared how its analytics group was restructured to better decision sciences in their organization using a global delivery model. Another client, a leading retailer, discussed their mantra for the success of decision sciences: gather data, create actionable insights, infuse these insights into business processes and act on the derived knowledge.
A panel discussion led by representatives from leading clients in technology, retail and auto insurance industries ensued. They discussed how analytically proactive organizations have a culture of experimentation, innovation and 'Fail Fast and Learn.' These organizations are also known to invest heavily in emerging, game changing technologies to ensure they remain ahead of the curve.
Executives from one of the leading technology clients presented their journey from simple BI dashboards to the development of a robust framework for measuring marketing ROI. They connected the importance of building data and analytical infrastructure in incremental steps and selecting relevant analytics techniques; thereby ensuring that ROI measurement incorporates both quantitative and qualitative inputs that can increase accuracy in the process.
One of our clients, an operator of convenience stores, discussed how the company is using analytical approaches such as Flow and Network Optimization to rationalize product assortment in each network, drive lower costs, optimize distribution channel mix and maximize distribution efficiency.
Leading technology clients and a specialty retailer of consumer electronics led a panel discussion on how social media proliferation has enabled customers make a more informed choice before purchase (Zero Moment of Truth) and a more vocal one after (Infinite Moment of Truth). They also pointed out the need for integrated marketing that can guide the customer through the purchase process.
Data - The foundation of decision sciences
Andreas Weigend, a leading researcher and professor in social data and consumer interactions at the Stanford University, led a panel discussion on Big Data which saw participation from leading telecom companies and an online C2C trading corporation. The four-member panel spoke about applications, hurdles, insights and learnings in the analytical journey from Dataset to Toolset, Skillset, and Mindset.
Representatives from leading companies in the areas of financial services, technology, auto insurance and social networking, led another panel discussion on the topic "Should the lack of data to solve a business problem be viewed as a hurdle or a springboard?". The panelists presented a new 'discovery-driven' framework that advocates creation of 'agenda-less' data, which does not necessarily start with an existing business problem. Panelists agreed that such wide-scan approaches to analytics will give organizations a better chance of identifying game-changing opportunities.
The Future of Analytics
Rajaram said "decision sciences could be compared to a traditional supply chain, where data is the source, analysis/results/insights are the produce, recommendations/communication of actions is the distribution and actions/success is the consumption." He also presented a futuristic view of how organizations will collaborate on insights across traditional firewalls to gain competitive advantage.
The 2012 Mu Sigma Customer Summit concluded with an interactive workshop on Big Data Applications conducted by Andreas Weigend and Zubin Dowlaty, Head of Innovation & Development (Mu Sigma). The duo discussed at length on the technological innovations that promise data crunching companies the power of distributed computing and faster processors for data processing. This discussion set the tone for participants to brainstorm on new problems that should be addressed to understand customers and the marketplace better, using newer and potentially richer sources of information. Teams representing different industry verticals came up with innovative ideas on how they can solicit information from consumers to serve them better.
The two-day event saw participants of the Mu Sigma Customer Summit 2012 duly recognizing the importance and criticality of embracing the complete decision sciences "supply chain" and accepting it as an accelerator for competitive advantage.
As the organizer of this event, we are glad that our platform was able to converge ideas from industry thought leaders across verticals. We are as optimistic about the institutionalization of analytics and decision sciences in more and more enterprises as we are about hosting our next big Customer Summit.