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Sales Lead Management Radio

17
Aug 2021

Find someone who has a love affair with numbers and data to set you straight

August 17, 2021

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Digging into your company's data may seem like a task you can shove to the bottom of the priority list. Perhaps you delegate it to several people once a month to make sense of the numbers and put it into a story recap format with a bullet-point action list. They all use the same numbers, but are they all telling the full, accurate story? If not, you may not take the action that will either fix or continue the path to growth. Today, Susan welcomes Nick Amabile. His love of numbers, puzzle-solving, and detective work culminated at a young age and set him on the path to building DAS42. Founded in 2015, DAS42 is comprised of data analysts, scientists, business professionals, and engineers who provide end-to-end data services—including data strategy, tech stack integrations, application implementation, and enterprise analytics training. From this episode, you'll have a checklist of what you need to do and consider before you hire a temporary or permanent data concierge firm. 

If you like this episode, you may also enjoy the two episodes from Market Dominance Guys with Tom Zheng.

Giving Your Data the Sniff Test

and

Get Thee to a Data Concierge!

About Susan's guest:

Nick Amabile is the Owner, CEO, and Principal Consultant of DAS42, a US data analytics consulting firm that helps companies make better decisions, faster. Nick’s FullStack Philosophy is centered around the two components critical to achieving data-driven success: building an effective data analytics environment and building a data-centric company culture. He brings world-class analytics and big data technologies like those he used and built at leading internet companies, including Omaze, Etsy, and Jet.com, to his clients. Nick is passionate about and skilled at building internal teams and transforming companies at various stages of growth into data-centric organizations. 

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The full transcript for this episode is here:

Susan Finch (00:12):

Hey everybody, Susan Finch here, your host today for Sales Lead Management Radio. And I am excited because recently one of our hosts, Chris Beall on ConnectAndSell's Market Dominance Guys, had on his data concierge, Tom Zheng. And Tom talked about the reality of how data gets skewed. Well, I recently became aware of Nick Amabile and he is the owner and CEO, principal consultant of DAS42. And it's a US data analytics consulting firm that helps companies make better decisions faster. And that sounds like a tagline and a pitch. We're going to dive into really what that means. And it ties so closely into what Chris and Tom Jane did. I wanted to continue that conversation from a different perspective. Tom's a single practitioner, Nick has a full company that can help solve these issues. And so I want to talk about is the fact that your topics, I know some of your specialties are why data is a leading indicator for strategic decisions, right? And growth.

Nick Amabile (01:15):

Yep. Yeah, absolutely.

Susan Finch (01:17):

And I also want to talk about data chaos, so welcome Nick. I'm so glad that you're here to talk about all the parts and some of us just glaze over and we shouldn't because it's so important. And what I want to talk about is data starts out for most companies. It is with rare exception, even at enterprise level, I've seen it too many times and where people can't even answer the questions about their data and data chaos. So, in the beginning, you like to tell people, it's true. your data is fractured, it's barely usable, it's unstable, it's just a mess or it's all there and nobody knows how to interpret it. And what else happens? Oh, we can get it from so many sources. And it can't be merged or related or how do we put it into something that actually can give us an action plan?

Susan Finch (02:12):

And so time gets wasted. It's like, oh, let's compare this to this. And here's a report and answer that well, what did you really telling me? And what are you telling me versus what you're over there telling me. Even though you guys have the same numbers, you both have different agendas, even in the same company. And the reports, usually by the time you get to them all after they've waded through all this stuff, sorted it to make sense for them, put them at the advantage, looking like the hero, the data's old. And by then you're already behind the game, right? To react to it.

Nick Amabile (02:44):

Yep. A hundred percent and so first off, thanks Susan for having me, really excited to be here. But yeah, what you're describing is all too prevalent. Small companies, large companies, old companies, new companies, we've really seen it across the board. It doesn't matter the industry or anything else. I mean, I kind of joke a lot of times that what we do is get folks off of spreadsheets. There's nothing wrong with spreadsheets but to your point, data chaos is having many different sources of data, many different types of data that can't be related into a holistic picture of the business. And I've worked as a practitioner in the analytics industry for a long time, not just as a consultant, but also internally at companies and face a lot of the same challenges that we help customers solve a DAS42. And really what it is is if you ask 10 different people within a company, just some basic questions about the business, whether it's how many orders we got yesterday, how many customers do we have? Those types of basic questions you ask 10 different people, you get 10 different answers, right?

Nick Amabile (03:34):

And that there could be any number of reasons. A lot of it is, as you said, and perhaps an agenda with somebody sort of reshaping the data. But typically it's really just a lack of consistent definitions and agreed-upon definitions. I mean, there are lots of different ways to spin the yarn if you will, and kind of slice and dice data, but there's really typically no transparency around how people actually define revenue or customers or whatever it is. But that's a lot of the work that we do. There's a great technology out there for data analytics, a lot of modern cloud-based technology that we work with. But 99% of the problems that we see, the challenges that we see customers facing are more organizational and process-driven than technology. So that's what we do at the consulting firm at DAS42.

Susan Finch (04:10):

Okay. So let's take this back to a little more personal level.

Nick Amabile (04:13):

Sure.

Susan Finch (04:13):

You are the president, the founder, the CEO, you are the head honcho that made all this up and invited people to do this with you.

Nick Amabile (04:20):

That's right. Yes.

Susan Finch (04:20):

That's what it comes down to. At what point some of your earlier experiences earlier jobs, we're all pups and we get our first jobs that lead us to where we are, as we know we're the sum of our experiences. When did you know that you wanted to get into the data, the numbers, and you knew there was a problem to solve. Tell me about when that happened.

Nick Amabile (04:42):

Yeah, that's a good question. I mean, I started my career in economic consulting doing quantitative and econometric analysis for litigation and antitrust. And that was really interesting. I mean, I learned a whole ton about different things-

Susan Finch (04:54):

Playschool it for the audience.

Nick Amabile (04:55):

Yeah. Right, right. So basically what that is is somebody gets sued for price-fixing or collusion and things like that. If they're a mergers and acquisitions, that's illegal things, right. So there are lawyers involved, but there are also economists who are experts at sort of defining what markets are and how people can be competitive in markets and got to calculate damages for example, or all this kind of stuff, right? It was very interesting. And I realized in that job that there's... For example, if you work with a really big company, they'll just dump all their manufacturing data, their pricing data, their sales data, and they just dump it out to us and then we'd have to sort of make sense of it. We'd have to put it all together, we'd have to relate it to each other. We'd have to run a bunch of analysis on it.

Nick Amabile (05:37):

So there was both a technical component of dealing with this data at a technical level. And then there's also a business component about understanding this data means. How does it relate to what we're trying to achieve and what the business is trying to achieve? So that was a very early experience that got me really excited about just dealing with numbers, dealing with data, and helping businesses use data. I since, from the consulting firm that I started, I started moving on to different startups and technology companies. And so I was a little bit ahead of the curve in terms of using some of these more cloud-based tools, big data technologies, and things like that. And I faced these problems in my own career. I was the head of business intelligence at Jet.com, which is an e-commerce company that sold to Walmart. And we had the same exact problem.

Nick Amabile (06:17):

We couldn't figure out how many customers we had, how many orders we had. This guy had a different spreadsheet than this other person over here. And so it was very disparate and disjointed. And really that was the challenge. And I think we solved it successfully. We built a modern cloud-based analytics platform, but more than that, we got the data to folks who needed it. So like marketing people, customer service people, salespeople, merchandisers at Jet and things like that. So that's really what it's about is helping folks who maybe don't even have the technical skills or capabilities to use data, they still need to use data. So how do we get it to them? How do we make it make sense to them? And so that's really what we do now with the consulting firm at DAS42, is take a lot of those lessons learned, that I've learned the hard way in my career and try to short circuit some of that pain for our customers.

Susan Finch (06:56):

When did you first fall in love with numbers?

Nick Amabile (06:59):

Oh man. I don't know. I always liked math, but I also liked the logic aspect. That's really the key for me. It's piecing it all together. It's like a puzzle. So, I mean, I kind of also joke that analytics is basically just counting stuff and adding things up, right? That's a lot of what we do, but there is some interesting kind of puzzle aspect to it that I really enjoy. So I don't know that must have been an early thing that just popped out of nowhere for me.

Susan Finch (07:22):

You do. You seem like a puzzle solver and somewhat of a detective.

Nick Amabile (07:25):

Yeah, that's right. That's right. I mean, and that's really what we kind of call ourselves data detectives and cartographers, we sort of map out the universe of data for our customers and it's not easy, right? Then to your point earlier about folks who are within a company and sometimes they do need that external help, whether it's folks who have done it before or folks have a different sort of outside opinion who can take lessons learned from broadly within an industry and things like that, best practices. We really learned and sort of baked a lot of that into our engagements that we do at DAS42.

Susan Finch (07:56):

I'm wondering if, everybody has highlight stories and good wins for your clients. Do you have one that stands out that you could share? Kind of a, what it used to be like for them, what happened, and then they met you, and then-

Nick Amabile (08:11):

There are so many stories like that, but a recent one that I was just thinking about earlier today was talking to a Software as a Service company that they also sell hardware, but they sell software as a part of the hardware. We talked to some of their salespeople. Initially, when we work with our customers, we'll start a walk through all their business sort of processes. What do they do? How do the different teams work? So we did this kind of interview-based discovery process. And we talked to their sales team and the sales team was like the other day I called on a customer account, they're about to hit a renewal and I wanted to sort of try to upsell them on a new contract. Called the customer and I said, Hey, how's it going? How are you doing with the product?

Nick Amabile (08:47):

And the customer is like, I have 10, 15 different support tickets that are open with your company that I haven't been able to get an answer back on, right? And so the sales was blindsided by this, right? They didn't know, right? They think that everything's fine, the customer's happy with the product. And so what we did was put together a customer health dashboard that puts together not just sales data for the salesperson, but also customer service, data, product usage data, sort of adoption data, like when was the last time that people logged into the software, what's the contract value worth, all this different data that is coming from all these different sources, right?

Nick Amabile (09:19):

There are marketing data sets, there are customer service data sets, of course, sales. So this customer health dashboard really puts together a single view of the customer for the salesperson. So now they're no longer surprised when they call some customer up. They can say, hey, I see you have 10 support tickets open. How do we get these resolved? Let's get them resolved for you. And that's going to increase customer satisfaction for them and really just make the lives of those salespeople a lot easier.

Susan Finch (09:43):

And hopefully though, too, I'm sure your salespeople don't do this. Go through it's like, oh, they have 10 tickets, I'll forget that. I'll call the next one.

Nick Amabile (09:48):

Yeah. Right. Exactly. Yes. That sort of holistic view of the customer, the holistic view of the business, a lot of times folks just don't have that. Another good example is a company, we work with a lot of media and entertainment companies. They have to log into 15 different systems, extract the data, put it into an Excel sheet, manually, play with it, and then come up with an insight. And to your point earlier, we had customers that would take a week to update just one dashboard for an executive. And there's a lot of just manual preparation, information retrieval. And now the customer that we worked with comes in with their cup of coffee in the morning at 9:00 AM, gets everything updated. They save a whole ton of time in terms of just manual information retrieval. And it's just also less error-prone, right? It's more accurate. And that person now can focus on much higher-value analysis and insight generation rather than just putting together a spreadsheet for a dashboard.

Susan Finch (10:35):

Was it good wins?

Nick Amabile (10:37):

Yeah, I think so. It's one of those things where I really get a lot of excitement by helping our customers. And like I said before, it's not really about the IT teams. It's really about enabling the frontline business folks to ask and answer their own questions without having to call up the analytics team or the IT team or whatever it is. The marketing person knows the most about marketing in a company, right? So great. Let's allow them to ask and answer their own questions and you know how it is. Whenever you get a report back, let's say you asked for some sort of analysis, a report, you get it back. What does it do? It generates a whole ton of other questions that you want to answer. It's like, okay, well I see this number. Let's dive in. Let's drill down into that, right?

Nick Amabile (11:13):

And so that's really what we do with some of these self-service business intelligence tools is allow folks to kind of slice and dice, create their own reports, create their own dashboards in a governed way that's trusted. And so that the definitions are all standardized. Unlike that Excel sheet, where I can sort of type in whatever formula I want. In this case, I still have the power to create my own reports, but it's all standardized and governed. And so, therefore, when we have a conversation about the numbers, we're not talking about whose numbers are right anymore, we all trust the numbers.

Susan Finch (11:41):

Now, getting back to the episode I was telling you about with Tom Zheng. As a data concierge, I'm sure that you are not the only one that is able to talk about data and things. How many of these data concierges do you have?

Nick Amabile (11:53):

So our company is about 55 people. We have maybe 40, 45 consultants. And like I said, we've worked anywhere from very large enterprise companies to smaller startups. And I just think that these problems are pervasive and it doesn't really... A lot of our customers are really at square one of their data journey. And the first step is really getting a consistent, trusted source of data, a set of data that everyone believes in and trusts. But there's so much more that we can do with our customers.

Nick Amabile (12:17):

So, for example, once we get data into a data warehouse and put it together like an officer of business intelligence tool, and now it's about, okay, how can I email my customers and make it a personalized message? Or how can I identify opportunities to upsell and cross-sell? So that's a lot of what we do as well is we sort of help customers understand the art of the possible. In other words, how can data actually impact my business? So that's really what we do first and foremost, to start from a business process, a business imperative, and then work backward to a technical solution. I think a lot of data analytics projects, fail because they start from the technology side of the coin as opposed to the business side of the coin. And that's really what we aim to do is flip that on its head.

Susan Finch (12:56):

I know with producing podcasts and helping people with websites and branding strategies and all that, I don't think it's any different for you. People don't realize, I've helped to write software too, so the scope process is the most critical. The wishlist and then what? And then what do you want to know? And then what do you want to know? Because if you don't have somebody with you that can guide you to set that up in the first place... I know so many businesses that don't ever look at any other data. The simple thing of Google Analytics, let's just look at that. Everybody knows they need it, everybody has it, and nobody, if they get analytics, they don't set up the dashboard. So they don't know where people are coming in. They don't know why they're leaving. They don't know who's referring them. They don't know where the broken links are. And I know that's very pedestrian compared to what you are doing, but it's the same thing. It's data.

Nick Amabile (13:48):

Oh, It's absolutely the same thing. And you're right.

Susan Finch (13:53):

I'm helping somebody redo their corporate website. They finally got me to the analytics and I was cracking up home page, a blog post that had a rant on it, two top pages. And I mean, by a huge margin. And they had no idea. They said who wrote that like five years ago. I said, and why is there no call to action on this page then? [crosstalk 00:14:17] everybody's going there, yes. So yeah, I'm revamping that whole page for them because they're like five pages, oh you what? That's the most popular page?

Nick Amabile (14:28):

But you understood that business, whatever they were trying to do with that website right? And say, okay guys, we want more leads or whatever it is. And so now you're able to say, well, where are your current set of leads coming from, or where's your current traffic, and then look at the funnel, right? I mean, it's not at all different from what we do. That's exactly what we do with customers. And sometimes the scale is larger, but sometimes it's just as simple as that, right? And so understanding folks’ businesses, and then understanding how we can insert data into the process is supercritical. And as you said even before, a lot of folks come to us and they think they know they want, they then say, Hey, I need whatever it is, a car or whatever. It's like, well actually you think you need the car, but you need a truck or whatever it is, right?

Nick Amabile (15:04):

So kind of have to reframe a little bit of their thinking, especially when folks are moving to the cloud as well. That's something that I will say that is a little bit different. Obviously, data has been around for a long time. Data, databases, for example, have been around for a long time. And there are some patterns that have worked well in the past that kind of no longer work well in the cloud paradigm. And so that's really what a lot of our customers are doing. If they're transitioning from on-premises or legacy-type systems into the cloud to more of this “big data” technology. And it really does require a complete change in how you think about things to actually get the benefits that you're looking for in the cloud.

Susan Finch (15:37):

It's interesting that you bring that up. I run into enough people that, well, it's like a stupid PowerPoint. Okay. Has that changed? No, it is the same thing, people are still using it, like, oh my gosh, have we not evolved any more than that? And yeah, there's Prezi and there are those other things, but they're not intuitive. They're not easy. We all know how to use this. Put it up on Google slides. It's a little different, it's limited, it's this, it's that. And sometimes I watch companies when they're trying to shift from desktop to cloud, it's like, make it do the same thing up there rather than taking the opportunity, don't be locked into that we don't need that anymore. I think it's a really difficult transition for people to let go of some stuff that just because you've always had it, doesn't mean you really need it anymore. This is your opportunity. Shake it up. Let's redo it. Let's cut the fat away. Add some new functions that are more collaborative and can give you quicker answers. I bet you run into that all the time.

Nick Amabile (16:43):

Absolutely. And you hit the nail on the head there. It's like, if something wasn't working for you today, there's some reason why you want to move to the cloud. You want to get some sort of benefits, right? Maybe scalability and more flexibility, different cost structures, whatever it is that's motivating folks to move to the cloud, it's different than what you're doing before. So certainly, you're not going to be able to get those benefits if you just say, let's do what we were doing yesterday, and now we just going to do it over here. Then you're not going to get the benefits that you're looking for. And so to your point, where we really start with a lot of customers who are kind of in the middle of that transition, that journey, and we almost have to start from scratch.

Nick Amabile (17:14):

I know it's kind of a bad word sometimes because folks don't want to feel like they're throwing out all this legacy, but that's almost what it is. It's like now we have new capabilities. There's a whole bunch of stuff that we can do today that we couldn't do 10, 20 years ago with data, right? Data is bigger, there are different types of data. There are all these different SaaS applications that businesses are using to run. And so it creates different challenges, but it also creates lots of opportunities. And so that's really what we help our customers at DAS42 achieve those sorts of possibilities.

Susan Finch (17:41):

Having been involved with some software development for a couple of companies, you and I were just talking about the scope and how important that planning out the next steps, not just what you're thinking about today, where's growth going? Because if you don't plan for that, when you go back and try and patch it all together, it costs more than starting from scratch and just making data tables, talk to each other. And part of that also was where somebody like you comes in handy is because you can say, okay, this isn't that tough guys. All I need to do is make this talk to this and it's okay. The fields are the same, but we're going to start it fresh. And from the very beginning, we're going to have this path and it's going to be beautiful and you'll be able to push these four buttons and get that report and they can push five buttons and get that report.

Nick Amabile (18:27):

Absolutely. And I mean, I think that's something that's really critical is that I've in my career, but then also in the consulting firm, we've worked with so many different companies. And the only thing that I can say is the constant is change, right?

Nick Amabile (18:38):

Especially these days with a lot of companies are moving brick and mortar retailers to direct to consumer and online streaming from movie theaters and stuff like that. The dynamics are changing. And so having worked with a lot of really sort of mature and forward-thinking tech companies in my career, and then also in the consulting firm, we understand and can anticipate some of those dynamics that are going to change. And we know how to set up a foundation that's going to work with you for the long-term and not just going to be work today. We know that, Hey, really change is important, but building for flexibility is like, that's the key, right? We need to make it flexible. It can't just be working today. It has to be able to easy to add on things, easy to change things, new data sets, new metrics, new use cases, all that kind of stuff. We're able to anticipate a little bit further ahead than I think our clients would be without us.

Susan Finch (19:25):

So I want to know if you saw this coming that a lot of retailers are finally online retailers, especially finally coming to realize that Amazon can be evil. And because when Amazon started, it was, Hey, let us help you, we have all the... Put your stuff up here, we'll help you sell it. Come on, we'll make it easy. And then as they saw what was popular and things, all of a sudden your host is the competitor. And so biased and so strong and heavy-handed. And so now I just saw an article today in USA Today saying, retailers time to not do DoorDash, don't do Uber Eats, don't do Amazon. Source it locally, do it yourself and you'll make more money because as we know, Amazon makes you charge the least price out of all your venues, has to be the lowest price for about the same thing, and they still take their cut.

Susan Finch (20:17):

And so it's very hard to make money with theirs. I know because I sold books through them one time and it was so difficult. So I'm wondering, did you see that coming? Are you trying to help people make that shift? Again, it's that flexibility thing because all the data comes in and it's telling you, Hey guys, your profit is down. Do you actually help them analyze their data? Or are you simply setting it up for them and teaching them how to analyze their data?

Nick Amabile (20:40):

We definitely analyze their data for them as sort of my background in e-commerce like at Etsy and then at Jet, a lot of e-commerce experience, so I've worked in the field for a long time. We can bring to our customers, Hey, you should be looking at these metrics, this is how you usually find them, here are the best practices, all these types of things. And so we basically set it up, not just that they can get the data that they want, but now they can start to add on top of it and build their own metrics and things like that on top of it. I can't necessarily say that I saw the entire shift of Amazon. If I did, I would be doing okay, right? I would have invested in stock, in Amazon stock in '94.

Nick Amabile (21:12):

You know, but you see this right now with Shopify and other places like that, other platforms that are really kind of enabling independent merchants to really be independent, but they also need a data program to be able to understand all the things that are going on with their website, doing funnel analysis or marketing kind of customer acquisition analysis and things like that, that I think is a little bit new. Perhaps if someone's just only posted up on Amazon their products, now there's a little bit more to do there that they're going to have to take on themselves that we certainly could help with.

Susan Finch (21:40):

Right. Well, it sounds like you are a wonderful place to start at least to get that conversation started for companies making a major shift or realizing the first step is for everybody to realize, guys, ask about your data. If you are responsible for the income, the profit, the hiring, whatever piece, whatever you're responsible for in the company, you need to have your piece of the data understood clearly so that you can explain it to others. And if you don't have that, you might need somebody like Nick's company. You might need some help. You might need a data concierge, one-off, or have a whole company like what Nick's been talking about that they can pull your whole system together, help you analyze it. And maybe it's short-term, maybe it's not forever. Maybe he gets you kickstarted and you go, I got this and we're on our way. And we'll do a check-in in six months or a year.

Susan Finch (22:28):

And you'll come back and say, okay, we shouldn't have left, we should have just stayed Nick and have you do it all. But you guys got to know this. Every company needs to know it. I need to know it my own. And I will admit, I do not look enough at my data even though there are only 10 of us. We're small, but I still have to look at it and know what's paying off and what isn't. Are we charging enough? Am I charging enough per episode for a podcast? Am I paying my editors too much? Should I be editing it myself? Where's the profit and where do we need to grow? And where do we need to maybe increase prices a bit to stay functional and competitive, to be able to give the best services? You won't know that, guys, without looking at the report, let's start with QuickBooks or whatever you're using. Start with Google analytics. Those two, just those two will give you a big picture.

Susan Finch (23:13):

From there, you can get into the deeper stuff. But I think if you start with two things alone. Look at these things really have your bookkeeping, accounting CPA person set it up, break the things down. What are the pieces? I break things down so much, it makes her crazy, because I want to know what's marketing, what goes to building an episode? What goes to promoting an episode? What goes into all these things for the clients and then for the house accounts. Our own internal marketing, do you track that, guys? Are you doing enough of it? Do you see that something pays off or doesn't pay off? You won't know it until you look at the data and you won't be able to take it further and grow until you get somebody like Nick. So Nick, it has been a pleasure. And I'm wondering how can everybody find you?

Nick Amabile (23:52):

This is easy. DAS42.com or [email protected] is my email address. They can just reach out to me directly. And as you said, happy to have a conversation and just sort of bounce some ideas around.

Susan Finch (24:02):

That's great. That's very generous of you too. Thank you so much. This has been Susan Finch for Sales Lead Management Radio on the Funnel Radio Network. You can find all of our shows at funnelradio.com. You can find this particular show in all your favorite podcast venues. You can subscribe via email if that's how you like it. We don't care, we'll get you the shows. You just show up, give us your information and we'll make sure you know every time we drop an episode. Thank you so much. We will be out here again.

Speaker 3 (24:34):

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