Welch: Big data only matters if you can show outcomes

The former GE chief exec spoke at the Arthur W. Page Society Spring Seminar on Friday.

Former GE chief executive Jack Welch at the Arthur W. Page Society’s Spring Seminar.
Former GE chief executive Jack Welch at the Arthur W. Page Society’s Spring Seminar.

With new data measuring tools developing every day, CCOs are quickly going to drown in all the information being collected unless they can use it in a way that produces actual results, according to GE’s former CEO Jack Welch.

"It is so fashionable to say ‘big data,’ but it only really matters if there is an outcome you can act upon," Welch noted at the Arthur W. Page Society’s Spring Seminar in New York on Friday.

MasterCard, for instance, is seeing growth in budget and headcount as a direct result of its comms team’s data analytics use, the company’s group executive of worldwide communications, Chris Monteiro, said at the event.

GE Healthcare's CCO Jeff DeMarrais also noted on Friday that GE ran a campaign about why the company "hates cancer" for three years. By analyzing data from the initiative on Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and Spotify and harnessing partners in the cancer community, the communications team saw that 40% of GE’s healthcare brand is now represented by its work in the oncology space.

Data analytics also enables CCOs to quickly change the conversation. MasterCard was recently able to avert a potential crisis – in real time on social media – when someone misrepresented the brand while speaking at a conference in Europe.

"We were watching the live conference from New York, and our company was being misrepresented based on how the person was presenting it," said Monteiro. "We got to the person and made the correction on the fly, feeding the correct information right to the boots on the ground."

The next phase of data analytics is its predictive ability, experts at the event agreed. And companies like Facebook are already experimenting with it.

"We can tell early on whether something positive or negative is going to go viral based on sharing characteristics early in the pipeline," said Mike Buckley, Facebook’s VP of global business communications, at the event.

This enables the social network to hit people with proactive messaging to explain Facebook’s position on an issue, he added.

Monteiro also explained that CEOs are less interested in hearing from the CCO about what has already occurred in the previous quarter, based on analytics. They want to know what is happening next.

"Predictive is the future for all of us," Buckley said. "This is going to expand rapidly in the next 12 to 18 months as [artificial intelligence] improves."

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