Process Analytics—Data is the New Oil and the Thanksgiving Parable

‘Until next time’ is the tone from the top culture of yesteryear—where everyone had their own people, process, and preoccupation with paperwork.

(Image credit: John Labelette/Unsplash.)

Many executives are largely undermined by their own approach. They stovepipe lines of business, regimen echelons of financials, silo operating structures, and pigeonhole organizational chart boxes thinking they have created something optimized, effective, and efficient. They might have been right when the world operated by paper, fax, and phone—but then data happened. People touch the former and use the latter.

Moving from a pickup-and-put-down work motion to a usage-streaming motion changes everything. It means never needing a bigger envelope—always having room to learn more about a customer, and never missing a note, since you can take actions with data, while paper is just stationary (yeah, I made that pun).

Data makes flowing information around a customer the only successful endgame possible.

You can focus on contextual customer journey moments for customer success and flow everything as needed everywhere else. Paper, and the organizations built around paperwork, can’t work with data, there’s no whiteout, no staple, no rubber band.

The “old way of working” difference in a manual process required a chain of custody style of literal folder files moving along a decision avenue. A lot of progress was made to transport, share, and use electrified versions of paper, but the humans often remained, minus extra file rooms and the mail carts. Those were often replaced with fax machines, group printers, and copiers.

The comfort of holding, reading, and referencing paper was normal, and necessary since most of the 80’s, 90’s, and into the 2010’s still relied on a desktop console to access, view, and annotate even an e-version of a form, letter, or receipt. That’s why we are all still waiting for digital transformation—where data flows and decision journeys breakthrough the physical and human dam ways that shunted paper these last 100 years.

Circling back to the unfortunately isolated executive, it’s a “data, data, everywhere and not an insight to drink in” situation. The mirage of decision-making customer-centric process improvement lifetime value making journeys are dazzling before their imaginations. Their isolated marketing department executives and their customer research vendors said so.

The rest of the organization typically never hears about customer journeys or satisfaction, except in annual syndicated industry benchmark studies. The paper-based history of surveys being detached from operational paperwork made it easy to dismiss and deny on one hand, while also making it simple to claim it as the truth told by the customer on the other.

It is no simple matter to diffuse and distill how a customer feels and what their intents may mean, but when spread across a splintered landscape of individual paper trails, it is no wonder professions have sprung up which endeavor to connect feelings to processes and outcomes.

Process analytics provide the avant garde methods for making these connections and crafting contextual data insights around best practices, scaling them across experiences, and then finding ways to elevate them—while making them more user-friendly and less expensive. It does not have to cost more to give customers empathic and satisfying experiences, but it does require data being enacted with people, processes, and technology using data. You simply can’t put all the paper to do this in a pile—it’s a data thing.

Executives who fail to constantly query how to do this better are failing themselves, because when they don’t ask data-required questions, they don’t require data-fitness in their teams. And there are consequences for that.

Customers may be considered the sum of all their data, before, during, and after any interaction with a business or business process served by partners. Unlike with paper, where a thousand sticky notes can’t be expected to last a week, data can be extensible across a lifetime, or beyond. Incorporating traditional data science efforts by blending customer and household information throughout operational analytics research brings new life to customer lifetime relevance while making process improvements personalized-ready for any preference.

Paper—and images of paper—require sorting, collating, and sequencing that can be terrifically difficult to change. Data blends into a base and is indexable, searchable, serviceable, and can be annotated with logged events perpetually transparently. Paper needs people to remember where it all is. Data is always available.

The Thanksgiving Day Parable

The biggest hurdle for executives today is what I call the Thanksgiving Day table problem. This parable of a uniquely American tradition is still a problem shared by organizations everywhere.

The head of the table (executive) has invited people to gather at an event that occurs regularly but at long intervals. Many come because they are obligated to be there. They sit alongside familiar folks that they often have not sought out since the prior gathering. They smile, get along, appear to enjoy themselves, and agree to not wait until the next event to connect. Then they all sigh a relief that nothing bad happened and they won’t need to do that again for a while. When “bad” things do make a scene, it’s typically blame-game time—“You didn’t tell me, so I didn’t know, that’s why X happened!” Predictably, that is a recurring scene.

Members of the organization can sit across the table from each other, without accountability, without shared responsibility as a matter of (bad) habit. “Until next time” is the tone from the top culture of yesteryear—where everyone had their own people, process, and preoccupation with paperwork.

The customer and customer journey were like firewood, not oil. Creating a culture that depends on oil, not wood, is only done by executive intent. Can we skip oil and go straight to electricity? Some would argue that smartphone-based operating models and connected-everything industries already did. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Transforming away from paper thinking and to data-driven decision thinking is the cultural remedy for either oil or electricity (true digital but pre-Metaverse still if you are futurist fan).

A Daily Habit

The tone that must be set from the top today is one in which the leadership takes the task at hand and asks better questions—questions that can only come from using data. Making that a simple daily habit will transform piles of paper-popping people into a data-first perpetual motion mental machine across their company, its partner organizations, and its industry.

Be the boss—change your executive table, eliminate the seldom-shared process by making data the essential element needed for anyone to get and keep a seat at the table. When everyone is using data, they all are invested in its quality, timeliness, accuracy, and relevance. Governance, provenance, fit-for-use, the curious urgency for more and better data, and shareable sustainable value creation for customers, employees, and partners then become byproducts of executive intent.

Don’t have yourself to blame again next year.  Your customers, employees, and shareholders, deserve a better you.

Safer Than Ever in a Risky World by Staying Connected

Martin Ellingsworth //

Martin Ellingsworth has held prestigious and industry influencer positions across the insurance landscape. Most recently as the go-to-market leader for J.D.Power and previously with industry leaders USAA and Verisk Analytics (ISO). Marty brings extensive career and industry experience in creating value from data and advanced analytics. His longstanding accomplishments in both personal and commercial lines include productizing deep industry knowledge in risk assessment, risk segmentation, marketing, rating, customer experience, claims servicing, and fraud prevention. Marty’s research focuses on helping insurance companies build data-driven, customer-centric digital enterprises. Marty has a Bachelor of Science in operations research from the United States Air Force Academy and a Master of Science degree in operations research from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He enjoys reading, family, and his pets in the calm weather of Southern California, but sadly, never learned to surf.
Ellingsworth can be reached most easily on LinkedIn or by e-mail at

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