At this year’s SXSWi, I heard a familiar tune: everything still leads back to the data. It’s the underlying and often puzzling theme serving as the connective tissue for all other emerging trends I noted at the festival. Whether perusing the hectic vendor floor, attending insightful sessions, or conversing with attendees over lunch, it was impossible to ignore the data elephant (and, its challenges) in the room.

My LinkedIn social graph visualization. Data upon data!
Data upon data, as visualized in a snapshot of my LinkedIn social graph.

The question keeping everyone up at night is, “How do we make sense of all this data?”
Tracking customers via their data along the Dynamic Customer Journey (DCJ) is morphing into a top priority for organizations as traditional and digital media more seamlessly converge into delivering one holistic experience for the customer. Add to that the rising popularity of the “quantified self,” and companies are now struggling to not only connect the dots between their own data sources but also the data sets of their customers. With consumers beginning to take control of their own data tracking and analysis, the complexity of taking calculated actions only increases for businesses attempting to make sense (or, “cents,” perhaps) of the myriad of data points at their fingertips.

Collaborative consumption is the new buzzword, with its applications attempting to transition from a “nice to have” to proving utility.
From Zaarly to Lyft, Task Rabbit to Airbnb, collaborative consumption has taken hold in the online and mobile application space. Although the majority of these companies are technically in their infancy, their apps are beginning to mature as they develop stronger location and micro-location targeting and service delivery capabilities. A focus on adapting to better deliver real-time information and individualized customization to users is also coming to light as consumers demand instant gratification, fine-tuned relevance, and the death of mass “customization.”

New business opportunities are being discovered as companies further analyze their customers’ dynamic, flexible social graphs.
With companies becoming more savvy in determining the impact of their customers’ online social connections, new business opportunities are emerging that focus on disruption via micro-community development, influencer and advocacy programs, and vertical-specific targeting (healthcare, education, and entertainment were definite stand-outs at SXSWi). As such, analytics is still a big part of the equation, gaining importance as businesses strive to create new opportunities and, still, prove social ROI—whether analyzing an individual’s data, group data sets, or connections between complex big-data graphs.

Although the idea of data management, analysis, and related action may not have a shiny new appeal, it certainly can’t be ignored. The bottom line is that we must solve these core data equations before moving on to the next red-hot, sexy application that benefits from its understanding. Otherwise, the energy of disruption will short-after be diluted by a lack of strategic business value.

For others who attended SXSWi, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did you also see data as such a pervasive theme woven into the core of your sessions and conversations?

One thought on “SXSWi 2013: Data, Data Everywhere

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