Leading with Insights

At Microsoft, we aspire to broad, sustained success across multiple factors – grow revenue and earnings, compete to win, and delight customers. Achieving these aspirations does not come through luck or happy accident. Now more than ever, leading with insights is essential to efficiently enable us to capitalize on opportunities and dodge threats with speed and assurance.
For Microsoft, what does it mean to drive business results by leading with insights? It means quickly 1. Identifying and connecting the most relevant data on the business, 2. Deriving an insight... a truth, and then 3. Acting upon it with speed and efficiency. It could be a core truth about a customer/audience, a competitor, or our products. It isn’t a hunch, it isn’t a guess and it isn’t what you want to be true; it’s a business opportunity or challenge you can demonstrate through data to be true.
When you lead with insights, you have a strong foundation for modern storytelling. It is the core from which we build messaging, accelerate momentum or land a campaign. It is data-driven business insights which represent a truth that holds up to scrutiny. Leading with insights is a necessary part of the journey towards driving business impact, and it is important that you assess where you are on your individual journey.
Credible stories are rooted in data and our opinions add perspective. When we lead with insights, we are not just splashy or funny, but our story resonates for a sustained period of time. It compels the listener or viewer to think and react, if not immediately act. It has staying power. It helps us connect in real ways with our customers.
So when I coach Marketers at Microsoft on how to drive business impact through insights, I tell them to
  1. Take off the rose-colored sunglasses. Start by seeing the world through our customers’, partners’ and competitors’ eyes. What do they see? How do they feel? What do they think? What can our products/services REALLY do, how does that stack up to competition? Is it REALLY differentiating? Is our position REALLY sustainable?
  2. Draw clear insights and conclusions by what you see in the data you have available – product teardowns, store visits, customer interviews, financial reports, product reviews, behavioral data (e.g. app usage, error logs, store traffic), analyst reports. Remember to read these with an open mind, without an advocate’s perspective (that comes later!).
  3. Be tenacious and consume all the information you can find that pertains to your business question. Let it settle. Once you’ve consumed it, let it settle some more. Don’t just be analytic (breaking a problem down into its component parts), be conceptual (make linkages across information that isn’t directly linked).
Leading with insights is a mindset, not a defined set of tools and activities. With clear, actionable insights you can become an agent of change. Be provocative! Challenge the status quo! But most important be informed! Read more about our customers and insights at our big data trend page.