Michael Duke is trained in biological sciences but now finds himself leading a scientific approach to digital at Good Growth, an Exeter-based consultancy.

Duke tell us what his role demands, from tools and skills to precisely why, in his words, data cannot be useful in and of itself.

So, let’s spend a day in the life of Michael Duke…

Please describe your job: What do you do?

I am Director of Insight & Analytics and am accountable for the integrity and accuracy of all customer analytics and insight we deliver for our clients who range from Channel 4 through Lidl and Waitrose to Boohoo. I am responsible for development of our data products and drive analytical innovation across the organisation.

Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?

I sit within the senior leadership team and report to the Managing Director. I head up a team of analysts who build the world-class insight we deliver for global brands. 

What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?

A strong scientific-, critical thinking- and, to some extent, a highly sceptical mindset. The ability to understand and interrogate data and identify biases both internal and external which might cause the wrong conclusions to be reached even if the data is “right”. 

Tell us about a typical working day…

A typical working day is split evenly between:

  • Delivery of more detailed client analytics and insight to support the broader Insight & Analytics team;
  • Innovation of new analytical processes to advance the world-class customer insight produced by Good Growth, and
  • Building new strategies for digital innovation in response to these insights.

What do you love about your job? What sucks?

I love the level of creativity the role allows. Every project offers different challenges and I am able to ideate new solutions to unique business challenges in response to customer data and insight. These solutions enable change within even the most complex digital organisations.

By presenting insight in a unique and refreshing way, I am able to shine a light on opportunities missed by some of the world’s most successful brands. I enjoy engaging senior leaders in the solutions to addressing the opportunity at hand – often worth millions of pounds to the organisation.

The biggest headache I experience is the amount of back-end maintenance required to ensure data processes are kept up to date and in line with ever-changing security requirements. 

What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?

My goal is to develop and maintain an industry-leading analytics and insight proposition encompassing the entire digital ecosystem.  Our approach covers every element from SEO and digital marketing, through on-site effectiveness and user experiences, to email and post-conversion retention and simultaneously aims to help organisations dismantle the siloed structure of digital and instead work towards a more holistic, scientific operating model that aligns the thinking and the doing.

The greatest challenge to this model is the assumption that there is a subset of “most useful” KPIs for measuring success. In reality there is no single metric for success and even the more obvious measures, such as revenue, are flawed – revenue can be increased through increased marketing spend but did this actually mean you are more successful? Arguably the real KPI for success is profit. Once all is said and done, do we have more money in the bank or not (but even this has its own flaws and biases).

Rather than metrics, success is best measured through building a robust understanding of performance using a range of measures. This allows business to stop worrying about “performance” and start understanding “effectiveness”. 

What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?

That’s an easy one! Microsoft Excel – almost always overlooked in favour of other more complicated (and often more expensive) analytical solutions but no other tool offers the breadth of analytical capability and ease of use. 

How did you end up at Good Growth, and where might you go from here?

Rather than coming from a digital or data analytics background, I instead began my career as a veterinary haematologist and my experience is very much rooted in biological sciences. I was brought into Good Growth to help build a pure science approach to digital, rather than a digital-led approach which is often where the problems tend to lie. 

Which advertising/experiences has impressed you lately?

I am continually impressed by Amazon. Whilst the user experience is not the most elegant, the way Amazon empowers the customer throughout the journey is truly industry leading; few other businesses place the customer so clearly at the centre of the experience. From ease of purchasing to order management and delivery tracking across multiple devices (web, app etc) combined with the Amazon Prime delivery, video and music proposition, Amazon manages to provide a vast range of services within a single ecosystem and connect all of this to a single account. Achieving this has resulted from the placement of the customer at the heart of every decision the organisation has made.

What advice would you give to a marketer/digital professional starting out?

The biggest challenge in digital is the (incorrect) belief that data alone is useful. Data cannot be useful in and of itself:

  • It may not report what you think it does – for instance do you know how your conversion rate is calculated?
  • It might be biased – who produced the data, and do they have an agenda to support?
  • It could be of limited scope – does it matter what your bounce rate was on Sunday at 5pm?
  • And worst of all it may be untrustworthy – can you replicate it? If you can’t, don’t use it!

The question you should ask is not what, but why – data is simply the means by which you answer why. This is the key difference between data and insight. Data tells you what, insight tells you why.  When you have insight from robust data you can then make a commercial impact – that’s my job.

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