“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime” This saying was running through my head while I wrote this article.

A few months ago, Zalando had a huge change in their organization. Our Marketing intelligence team vaporized, and I became part of the personalized marketing team. My position changed from being a data guy to being a marketing product manager. Six months of learning and realization, and I have something to say: Maria Brigida Deleonardis, I’m sorry!

In becoming a product manager in the marketing team, I learned that I failed. As a data person with strong opinions, I didn’t see my stakeholders the way I should have. I vainly thought I knew how my stakeholders should best consume their data. And while I wasn’t completely wrong, I should have done it differently.

Brigida was my biggest data consumer. She was relying on my reports on a daily basis to see how her channel was doing, and I failed her. Brigida was constantly calling me and complaining that the data was wrong, but as a “good” IT guy, I disagreed and showed her how she was wrong. The problem was, she wasn’t able to use the data because I didn’t explain to her how to use it. On top of that, I built a fixed report and forced her to use it just because management was using it too.

So after six months of being a marketing manager, I can still say that my fixed report is very nice to look at, and it aligns from the C level to the working student. However, the ability to build my own reports and visualization while connecting to different data sources helped me find hidden issues and share it with my team.

Think about a broken marketing tool that keeps increasing the bids on the partner side although it makes no sense to bid 80 euros on a budget of 800 euros. The fastest way to discover such an error is by having an internal dashboard to monitor the activity.

The most important thing I learned was that data providers shouldn’t only focus on QAing the data and enabling access, but they should also work with their stakeholders to build trust and ensure they understand the data too. They should walk in their client’s shoes to understand what questions they have. I learned that this big report should only be used to align everyone. Stakeholders shouldn’t be forced to use the report. Instead, they should build their own dashboard and visualization to monitor and control their activity.

This is an area that requires a change in thought as data enablers and data controllers. We should go from thinking people are too stupid to work with data, to letting people work even more with data.

We should give them the right tools and teach them what we do so they can use it for their own needs too.

This is why I recommend either Power BI or Tableau to my stakeholders. Anyone who knows Vlookup and some pivoting can start using it to easily explore tons of data.

Now, go to your Brigida and ask her forgiveness because you were wrong all along. You didn’t increase her security using the data. You didn’t help her develop her analytical thinking. And you closed her in a garden, forcing her to use something that you thought was the right way to present data.

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