Unsexy Data Cleaning Predates Sexy Data Science

When the culture of an organization has been successfully transformed to make unconventional hiring decisions, view high-risk activities as investments, and approach initiatives with a long-term approach, only then is it ready for survival. After collecting, cleaning, storing, pulling, and then analyzing data, companies might be able to monetize it – and that’s a risk that companies like Amazon and Alibaba have the mindset to take.

At the Singapore-based version of Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP), professors from IMD Business School shared that companies need to clean their data before embarking on a data science-backed digital transformation initiative, adding that it can take up to a year to do so. Predating this is a massive shift in cultural and organization priorities, which enables a company to not only hire digital-first talent but also make digital investments that may take up to two years to materialize and produce results.

Speaking exclusively to Branding In Asia at the Singapore-based version of the course, Amit Joshi, professor of digital marketing and strategy at the IMD Business School, shared that most companies are not culturally ready nor equipped to handle the strain and mindset shift of digital transformation. When data is viewed as an asset and investments are made to leverage it in more than one manner, companies stand to gain from an operational perspective.


“Bossard [Holding AG] have completely transformed themselves using data and analytics,” said Joshi, citing the SmartBin program that helps assembly lines predict procurement needs and uses data to plan the supply chain around schedules. “They have completely transformed themselves from a fastener company into a logistics company effectively using data.”

When a culture shift is not the foundation of a program, the tactics tend to produce negative customer experiences from poorly planned incentives, with FedEx being a prime example. To improve delivery fulfillment and optimize time spent on the road for its delivery trucks, FedEx invested in SenseAware, internet of things (IoT) sensors, that track routes and offer the best path to destination to its personal.

IMD World Talent Ranking 2018

“The entire route planning of FedEx – because they know exactly what the van is doing, how long it’s waiting at each intersection, in front of each door – is completely automated,” said Joshi. “Things like predictive maintenance of their own vans, fuel consumption and its amazing because the kinds of effect this has had on human behavior.”


Drivers are incentivized to spend the least amount of time at the door of customers, which was meant to eliminate small talk with customers and make sure the FedEx employees fulfilled orders instead. The unintended consequence of poor incentive planning has resulted in multiple instances, most of which are caught on camera, of FedEx drivers hurling packages at doorsteps to avoid exiting their trucks. Seeing this, Amazon introduced a $300 doorbell that allows delivery personal to enter a customers’ home and place ordered packages inside, growing positive sentiment with Prime users.

“Amazon has already patented the predictive shipping algorithm,” said Joshi. “This depends on vast amounts of data about you that you don’t even know is being collected, some of it very very personal. Netflix knows better than your doctor if you have a bladder problem because you pause very often to go to the bathroom. The kind of data these companies is just incredible.”

Joshi believes that the West needs to realize that data privacy has strategic implications for competitiveness and that companies in Asia need to identify that data collection & storage is where they must make investments. “Think the dirty stuff – data collection, data cleaning, data protection – not cool, this is not fun, it’s necessary,” said Joshi. “Unless you make those investments, nothing else matters.”

He credits this practice as being the reason air travel is the safest way to travel, adding that the indefatigable practice in dissecting flight crashes and root causes has propelled the aviation industry forward. He believes the mass collection of the genome will have the same impact in identifying and preventing cancer early on.

“It’s a great example of governments coming together for social good,” he said.

A bi-annual event by the IMD Business School that serves as an executive education course in the format of an industry event, the OWP in Singapore was attended by senior executives teams from companies such as Nestle, Shiseido and Rio Tinto Group, learning analytics, data, marketing, leadership, and many more functional topics.

Babar Khan Javed

Babar Khan Javed

Babar Khan Javed is a Correspondent for Branding In Asia.

Read More

subscribe & get more brand in your diet


get more brand in your diet

We never share your info,
we only share ours