At “The 5th conference on Wired for Growth(October 14, 2021), several keynote speakers cover essential drivers of business growth in the morning (check the event schedule).

There are different tracks in which we take a deeper dive into business strategy, sales & marketing, and people & culture in the afternoon.

David van der Laan, currently leading Telenet’s Data Strategy & Analytics team, will host a sales & marketing track session on “inform decision making with insights, data, and analytics.”

In a previous interview (in Dutch) with keynote speaker Barbara Van Den Haute, we tackled the importance of data sharing and the role of the government.

In this interview, David van der Laan gives us a sneak preview of what we can expect from his workshop – and more.

What can attendees of “The 5th conference on Wired for Growth” expect from your session?

In the session, you can expect 2 things, namely (1) I will be extremely specific in terms of the story and examples I bring, and (2) we will cover a lot of ground related to this topic.

To offer already some perspective on the lessons I have learned from experience and would like to share, we will cover items such as

  • how to find a healthy balance between centralization and decentralization of data experts;
  • b) why you need “data strategists” in your company;
  • (c) why you need to open up the “data black box” so everyone understands how data & analytics contribute to the business and how we do that at Telenet;
  • and (d) why you need to turn data into a value discussion.

Getting the most out of their data to create value and growth is a challenge for many businesses. What challenges do you see?

In my perspective, the struggles related to data and analytics can be split into 2 groups, being (1) the challenges data & analytics experts struggle with within their field of expertise and (2) the challenges that are related to non-experts outside the data organization.

  • The first group of challenges typically receives sufficient attention from experts within the field, with smart people thinking about tough questions like “how can we better organize our data flows?”, “how do we organize our data management / data governance?” and “should we move to cloud?”.
  • The second group of challenges is in my opinion where immediate benefits can be quickly captured at most companies. Inherently, most data experts want to work on data topics, and most don’t want to spend a large part of their time ‘educating’ our more business-oriented colleagues.

I believe a true challenge for data professionals lies in the fact that ‘outsiders’ often have an impact on budgets and timelines. At times, ill-informed decisions are made by ‘non-data people’ that significantly impact the data organization.

If I would be pressed to choose, I’d say the one thing “data people” can do to beat the struggle and frustration is to make sure they have a seat at the table in the right “non-data” discussions with the right “non-data” stakeholders.

At Telenet, you are in charge of a team of 30 data strategists? Can you share some data strategy and analytics lessons in the context of growth from your experience?

  • First, when I think about strategy, I envision a timeline. Whereas people typically think “from left to right” on a timeline (I’m doing this today, tomorrow I’ll do that, etc.), the art is to flip that around and start thinking “from right to left.” (I want to end up roughly “there” in 2 years, so that means next quarter I need to be doing abc and today I should be doing xyz).
  • Second, in order to have a worthwhile perspective on “where we want to end up” at the end of a certain timeframe, you need a good understanding of the playing field and possibilities inherent to that playing field. So in our data strategy, we have made a point of clearly identifying 7 playing fields where we believe data & analytics can (and often already do) make a difference and making it very specific what exactly we believe we could / should be doing in the years to come. An example of 1 playing field is “Value based network management,” i.e., being smart about our network investments.
  • Third, it cannot be a paper exercise. To turn ‘thinking’ into ‘doing,’ you need to have the right people around the table and get them to “want it” too. And that’s not only the right data people, you need the right partners from across the organization to (want to) join the effort. We also push to be as explicit as possible in the value contribution we expect for each topic, and prioritize quite ruthlessly before moving from ‘idea’ to ‘execution’.

In my experience, the trap in more technical fields is too many paper exercises happening in isolation and only involving experts. I’d say the way to really make a difference is to approach the topic from the perspective of your stakeholders, pull them into the bath with you, make them want to join the effort, show and teach them the fundamentals to enable a true conversation, and making sure you have a system in place that guarantees a consciously structured flow from ideation through execution and follow up.

Successfully capturing the potential benefits of data & analytics involves making sure that the full system makes sense, which includes all of the above listed in your question, i.e. strategy, tools, people, goals, but also way more incl. budgets, processes, ecosystem thinking, recruiting, training & retention, and so on.

During the pandemic, you wrote a book on the world of work and how people can accelerate their careers through a growth mindset. We have tracks on the importance of people and culture in the afternoon. Can you tell us some of your views on HR and the ‘human dimension’?

I believe in the power of teams, but I also believe that there is a lot to be gained by helping every single individual become the best they can be.

What I have hoped to convey in my book are the lessons I have learned so far in that regard, with no doubt a lot left to learn in the years to come I’m certain the book is incomplete in some regards. When you refer to “a mindset of growth”, that is exactly one of the points I try to bring across in my book.

But I have attempted to go beyond, and listed 11 such specific perspectives on the world of work that help me make an impact on the organization. Beyond that I have moved to individual habits such as “always make sure you know what success looks like in what you’re trying to achieve / working toward” and “always be on the lookout for no regrets moves”.

When it comes to business growth through HR & work-related measures, I believe organizations should continue focusing on how teams collaborate & are organized. But on top of that, I believe that focus should extend to the level of individuals and teaching them very explicitly some things that don’t neatly fit into the skills description of a single job.

Register now for “The 5th conference on Wired for Growth”.

A full version of the interview with David is available here. As mentioned, there is also an interview with keynote speaker Barbara Van Den Haute in Dutch. The full version of that interview in English is available here.