Nor is access to data our limiting thing. We have had mountains of the stuff for 25 years with query tools that may have been clunky but worked. Nor is finding the right Big Data Vendor our limiting thing. More on that in a moment.
My limiting factor is time spent, focus, and building new and necessary skills.
We just returned from two days in Michigan with our network partners from CU*ANSWERS. Fully 40% of our time was spent on the question, "How to extract value from data?" Much was discussed and learned. But the phrase that stuck out for me was an off handed comment made from stage by Randy Karnes, CEO of CU*ANSWERS.
"Why do we always ship our coolest jobs out to vendors?"
At rkGoBig, we call this the "vendorfication of our greatest problems." We all confront hundreds of challenges and problems every day. If the solution to the problem is valuable enough, soon enough we find ourselves listening to three or more for-profit vendors pitching their solution to our problem. Depending on the size of the problem, we might spend three months evaluating those vendors. We sign a contract and slap ourselves on the back to say, "problem solved."
OK for check imaging. But for data insight about our members?
The meta-problem to this cycle shows up in our search for big data. Hang with me for a second here. Years ago, many of us served a small community of members. One thousand or four thousand members who all worked at the same place or company. We could in fact "know" our members pretty well. Not all of them. But many. Today, many of us serve ten or thirty thousand members across broad and diverse counties.
The point. We can no longer know our customers in an a-cup-of-sugar-over-the-fence manner. But we still work hard to know our members. Just as knowing our members was a core competency for us in years gone by, it is a core competency today. We must be exquisitely, extensively, extraordinarily good at it as a skill of ours and our organizations. With 65,000 members spread out across our communities, data is the only tool. So why do we all keep taking the calls of the next Big Data firm promising to solve data analytics for us?
Three months ago, rkGoBig formed our first Data Strike Force. We spend a dedicated amount of time every week to the task of becoming data-capable on behalf of our members. With the mindset of a person trying to learn to grow their own food or starve, we start. We found compatriots who were a little or a lot ahead of us and borrowed everything we could.
We did not seek to "get the answer from them." Instead, we sought to discover what their first steps to develop data skills. We sought out our biggest technology partner CU*ANSWERS. They have been working on this for years and years. Again, we were not looking for our data processor to sell us the answer. We were looking to learn from them how to begin, to catch up. And most importantly to build sustained value in our CU for the next 10 years.
Data analytics is one of the cool jobs. We do not yet know bupkis about how to do it. Not yet. But we know there are millions and millions of dollars of member value on the other side of learning to grow our own food. And a renewed sense of just how important it is for us to always seek new and better insights about and for our members.