Spring, Relay Races, and Data

Spring, Relay Races, and Data

As spring has just arrived, I’ve been thinking about my high school days of running track. FYI, I grew up in upstate New York – so the track season technically started in winter and pretty much ended in winter too :). This time of year, everyone looked forward to the very long and very cold winter coming to an end. I participated in several track and field events – high Jump, 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, and the 4 x 100 relay.

By far, my favorite was the relay. I had the absolute best teammates and we even set some school records that held for quite a long time after our departure. While I certainly enjoyed the individual events and felt a sense of accomplishment when I did well in competitions, the relay was both an individual and a team effort. Because we each had an individual responsibility to do our part – and do it well – but we also couldn’t compete and win without 100% teamwork.

Just as with the relay race, alignment and partnership is required for great data to exist in our business. As a marketer, I know that I’ll be much more successful if great data is at the core of everything I do. But whose job is it to make sure that as data weaves in and out of the organization it’s taken care of, validated, and represents what it’s supposed to? If we think about the 4 x 100 relay race, there was a team member who was responsible for being the “starter”. This person had to be fast out of the blocks (and she also had to hold on dearly to that baton when exploding out of the starting block!). But being fast out of the blocks wasn’t her only job – she also had to make sure of a smooth baton transition to the 2nd runner.

So when we’re thinking about the data that we work with every day, we need to think about its starting point – where is it entering the organization? At the point of entry or data acquisition is the perfect time to ensure that we are getting the best data possible. So the person on your business team responsible for where data is acquired is your “starter”. As data moves throughout your organization, there are many handoff points – far more than the 3 baton handoffs in a 4 x 100 relay!

On my high school track team, practice made perfect. We didn’t go out the very first time and run a perfect race. It took many baton drops and blood, sweat, and tears to ultimately run the fastest relay in school history. We each had to train individually and make sure we were doing our best, yet at the same time we had to train together as a team to ensure that at the point we passed the baton, we did so in the fastest and most efficient possible way. The same holds true for data – you’ll need to ensure that each and every team member is doing their part individually to ensure data validity and accuracy. But only when you come together and work as an aligned team will you truly be able to make the biggest impact and ensure that you are operating at the most optimized data level.

Even though this quote comes from a soccer site, and not a track or running site, I still think it’s appropriate:

Don’t Practice Until You Get It Right. Practice Until You Can’t Get It Wrong

That’s what we did on our high school track team – we practiced to the point where we knew we weren’t going to get it wrong and we trusted one another enough to know that we wouldn’t drop that baton or run out of our arrows in the transition zone.

Marketers need to get to the same level of confidence and trust when it comes to the data that we deal with every day. We need to take on the responsibility as individuals, but also to work together as a team – not just within the marketing team, but extended to IT, sales, and other parts of the business. Together, we’ll ensure we “can’t get it wrong” and will have trusted and great data to run our business.