Bridget Gray's Blog

Bridget blogs about Media, Digital & Communications

Bridget Gray

Managing Director
Harvey Nash

The Best Way to Make Big Data Tell a Story? Personalize Down to an Audience of One

Big data is only as interesting as the story it tells. The more it tells the unique story of each individual, the better. With that in mind, we personalized the results of this year's Harvey Nash CIO Survey with a Personalized Benchmark Report (PBR). The outcome? We got the highest number of respondents in the survey's 16-year history.

Lee Bustin, CIO of Group M, called the PBR "strategically insightful," saying that he particularly appreciated how the comparison of salary against IT budget helped him understand how remuneration is structured against budget responsibility.

The web-based report contrasts the participant's personal survey responses in contrast to their peer group's to provide a sense of how they compared, where they were in sync, and when they went against the grain.

Andrew Hottes, Global Head of ICT for CLV, found his PBR "enlightening," citing how much he valued the "confirmation that there are others in the same boat in similar industries--and also that if you don't like being in that boat, there are other industry boats that can potentially satisfy your needs."

Nick Beaugeard, HubOne Founder and CTO, remarked that his PBR left him "reassured," and appreciative that he now had: "a firm set of research to back my strategy choices in discussions with the board."

Experiment, Iterate, Innovate
The whole thing was a huge experiment. Our high response rate yielded robust sample sizes that afforded tremendous opportunity to segment by region, job function and budget; which approach would garner the most relevant insights and personalization? And what about security? We knew this was a serious consideration; clearly, we had to treat salary data sensitively.

But it was the best idea we had. In the past, we had sent technology leaders a summary of the survey using the website, but quickly grew unsatisfied with the one-size-fits-all format. We had considered giving CIOs a sandpit of sorts where they could play with the data themselves, but felt this was too dry; we wanted to provide them with a narrative.

It was only after discussing the idea of a PBR for years that Jonathan Mitchell, Former Rolls Royce CIO and Chairman of our Global CIO Practice, pushed us to do it: The value those personalized results would offer survey respondents was well beyond what we realized, he said.

A Win-Win Situation
It was instantly clear we had a success on our hands. One respondent said, "Wow, I'm already surprised by this dashboard. The option to choose your industry and see the averages and compare yourself directly with the outside world is very good. Given this output, I would be more willing to give more details. Great job."

Ninety-one percent rated the PBR as excellent or good. An overwhelming majority (73 percent) said that the promise of a PBR for next year's survey would be a 'major incentive' for them to take part, while nearly a quarter (21 percent) said that it would positively influence them to participate--adding up to a whopping 94 percent of positive responses.

In addition to increasing the number of respondents, we are also thrilled to give back to our loyal base of survey participants, as well as demonstrate our market knowledge, and exemplify digital innovation. What's more, this digital tool is unique to Harvey Nash, and will not only supercharge future global surveys, but our understanding of the IT community and how we can better and more effectively serve them as well.

The sheer volume of big data can be overwhelming, but once a narrative is carved out--and better yet, a narrative personalized down to each individual--numbers are turned into meaning, and that holds currency with everyone!

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