NEWS15 March 2016

Insight, not data, is the key to good business

Data analytics Mobile News Technology Telecoms UK

UK – Making data actionable to drive return on investment, but also trusting people’s instincts and intuition are key to running a business, according to BT CEO Gavin Patterson, speaking at the MRS annual conference, Impact 2016.

Gavin patterson conference_crop

Patterson was talking during the opening keynote session at the event, which is taking place today and tomorrow in London.

"Our access to data is up there with the top in terms what we’ve got available," Patterson told delegates. "The key is not data, the key is insight. In a world where we are awash with data, what we need to identify is the signal from the noise.

“I think the most important [challenge] for a business like ours is how do we use this huge bank of data on customers and prospective customers and turn it into operational insight that allows us to better understand the needs of customers and develop products and services, and how to market those through the business.”

He added that “great marketing-led businesses are able to develop people with great instincts for what people would buy”.

Patterson also talked about innovation, describing BT’s historical position at the forefront of technological change, but stressing that innovation should not exist exclusively within the realms of R&D. 

“Great companies have leadership and the ability to innovate running throughout the business,” he said. “Innovating at a proposition level is as important as innovating at a technology level."

“Great businesses are able to flourish over the long term not because they’ve got a technology advantage or a product advantage, but because they have the right people and a culture that enables them to identify the next trends.”

Patterson also shared his thoughts on taking on the top job at BT two-and-a-half years ago, admitting that the CEO role is very different to any other role he had filled during his business career.

“There are so many things that could go wrong, so you have to get attuned to know when to let something go or to dive deep,” he said.

“You never make decisions with complete confidence. The key to good decision-making is combining rational arguments and intuitive instinct, and as CEO, really focusing on the really big decisions.