Data and information. Same thing, right? To us, no. Whilst the two words are synonyms, they are fundamentally different. We feel that data is raw, and is the compilation of results from something that is recorded or measured. Information is the output once that data has been processed or analysed, by person or machine.
Whilst in some contexts, you may be able to draw quick and easy conclusions by looking directly at raw data, it is generally more cost effective and insightful to process that data through some form of AI. This is especially true when we are talking about masses of data. The more of it, the more resource it takes to analyse and process. But also, the more of it, the better the output.
As a technology company, we encounter data every single day. We wouldn’t be over exaggerating if we said that our sole purpose is to take data from our clients, and give it purpose or meaning. Almost every single project that we work on is about conveying a meaning, selling an experience or at a very fundamental level, generating interest.
Our role as an agency
Data can be presented to us in many forms. Traditionally, people think of statistics. But data can also be research, feedback, or even physical items. We like to begin a project with data. We feel that as an agency with strong ethical values, that we should only work on projects that we feel can make a difference to the world. A well-presented brief should be able to convey that message to us, but we will always be careful to ensure that what we are buying into has been validated, and aligns with who we are as a business. In short, don’t tell us you want to change the world. Tell us why it needs to change.
We want to see the data and the information that reinforces your purpose and clearly demonstrates that there is a place in the world for your product. In agency land, this is more commonly referred to as validation. We want to see validated work that has a good market fit, a public need, and a potential audience, or, if we see data that suggests a product has great potential, we can work with you to validate it. Without a time machine, we aren’t able to get this right every single time. And that’s okay. But by validating work up front, we can make a clear judgement call on whether a project is right for us or not, and access to good, strong data plays a key role in that.
More about validation
This may be a good time to read our piece on MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and why they exist. But here’s a short summary anyway. By building an MVP, you can gather data and information to give you a clear and reliable view of whether your product has a market need. If the information is positive and suggests that people could and would find benefit in your product, service or offering, then great.
Read our blog on Understanding MVP and What Ours Looks Like
If your information is negative or inconclusive, it could be that there is currently no market fit for your product. And as we spoke about in the MVP article, this isn’t always a bad thing. It’s important to fail fast and try again.
Validation is a big, bright green light. It’s the okay or the thumbs up that you should always be looking for. It’s the stepping stone from concept to production. Validation makes stakeholder buy-in easier, and gives you a clear and accurate idea of how customers or clients may receive your product.
Data as a currency
There is an inherent value in data too. From those annoying telesales calls where you’re being sold an ‘active and engaged’ list of email contacts (no thank you), to bulging whitepapers from the big guns like Gartner. Companies invest millions in building information, often in very niche and industry-specific packages, so that they can sell it to those interested. In a B2B context, this isn’t particularly unusual, and plenty of internal teams will purchase data to add more gravitas or value to a project.
But at a B2C level, things are very different. Customers are becoming increasingly aware that their data is being used to the advantage of ad-based businesses like Facebook, Google and many, many more. In most cases, this is cookie and browsing data, and it directly impacts the content and advertising that users will see. On the surface, maybe it does enrich one’s browsing experience, showing only what is relevant. But the underbelly is a teeming network of clever bots, listeners and algorithms so highly strung and finely tuned, that apps can almost predict your next move. All with profit in mind.
As an ethical agency, we strive to be as honest and transparent as possible when it comes to data. We do this not only to be responsible, but also to uphold the integrity set by our core values.
- We will use the data that potential clients make available to us to assess whether they are a good fit for us (and us for them)
- We will use fair data to build the best possible product that we can for them
- We will use that data to pass that brand or product’s value down to the end-user or customer
That third point is key. Of course, we can build a beautiful app, develop some brilliant software or launch an award-winning website… but we want to be able to do so knowing that the message, product or service is validated, and is passing that down the value chain in the form of information.
How do we do this?
Well, that generally comes down to the individual project at hand. Dashboards are a beautiful way to visualise information built from data. That’s nothing new, and I would wager that most people reading this use dashboards as part of their job in some way or another. But data and information isn’t always graphs, charts and tables. Looking beyond the granular analysis and endless reporting for reporting’s sake, data and information can inform and steer an entire product, brand or business strategy.
A notable example from our portfolio is our work with Hitachi. The Smart Energy Islands initiative is a project to move the Isles of Scilly to 40% renewable energy by 2025. On a consumer level, islanders and investors needed to see the data in a way that was clear and digestible. We did this through illustration, animation and infographics. But on a wider level, Hitachi not only relied on electricity consumption statistics from 2005 to present day, but also data and information that validated the very feasibility of the project in the first place. Data came from a wide range of sources, including the many technology partners invested in the project, local councils who also provided funding for the initiative, as well as IoT and AI data collectors that plugged directly into the grid.
Data never sleeps
To summarise, we feel that data should be omnipresent at every stage of a project. Data isn’t just numbers or statistics. Data is the evidence to support your product. It’s the users’ feedback, from testing through to launch and way beyond. It’s the ongoing performance of the product or service. And most importantly, it’s the sense check, on day one, day 100, or day 1,100 where every single stakeholder should be asking “Are we still following the core goals and values of this project?”
We already work agile, and strive to validate every business decision or direction we take. We also have the relevant safe holds in place to make sure we do it in a secure and trusted way (you can read more about our recent ISO 27001 implementation). And most of all, we have our core values as a northstar – reminding us that what we do should be honest, informed and ethical. Data helps us do that.