Why Data-Driven Strategy is Vital for Growth with Bryson Koehler


We’re back with season two of Leading with Data, and in our first episode, we talk with the inspirational Bryson Koehler about data-driven strategy, consent, and business transformation.

Bryson Koehler, previously CTO of IBM Watson, is now CTO of Equifax, a global data, analytics, and technology company. His career has been forged by data and recognizing the power of data to lead change.

Bryson has been a “self-professed geek” from the age of 8. He taught himself to code, and very quickly became a developer, then a project developer, before taking up senior technology roles and leading transformational data-driven change.

So what does Bryson think about how companies should use and elicit more data in the future to drive innovation? Bryson joined Jason Dorsey on our Leading with Data podcast to share his insight.

Hit play on the player above or read on to find out more.

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Bridging the Divide Between Technology and Business

Bryson has always been into tech, but as he moved up the career ladder, he quickly realized that technology leaders are actually business leaders. Why? Because he believes that what drives a business should be firmly rooted in data.

“My focus has always been around figuring out how to bridge that gap and how can I help a company really see the value that technology can bring.”

That’s why, today, Bryson helps enterprises find ways in which technology can help change and transform their thinking from the inside out. Bryson explains that his role as the CTO of Equifax was a great opportunity to put this into practice. Instead of just seeing it as a tool, he has worked to reorient the business to utilize technology to ‘help people live their financial best.’


Why a Data-Driven Strategy Will Give You the Edge

Data also gives you clues about where to differentiate in the market and where to focus your product direction. If you want to understand how to transform your business, then you have to use data to lead that decision.

Bryson is passionate about this point, and he has built an impressive career based on that belief.

At Equifax, the focus in the last couple of years has been around identity and fraud products. The development of those products was driven by what the data was telling them. Bryson explains that when they matched signals, data inputs, and attributes together, they could fully understand their customer behavior.

That data analysis was then used to launch seven successful “data-based” products to help protect consumers. Was Bryson’s bet successful? You bet. Today, customers using the new Equifax fraud platform are seeing eight-fold increases in fraud detection.


Creating a Data-Driven Strategy Means Never Seeing Data as Bad

Managing data in the past was hard work, says Bryson. “There were a lot of cleansing and storage issues back then, and we dropped data on the floor because it seemed easier to get rid of it than to try and manage it.”

Has this attitude changed with cloud storage? Definitely. Now, data has the power to transform companies. With the benefit of machine learning and AI, we are also accelerating the processing and the insights we can discover.

“I think that if more companies recognize all of their bad and good data, we could find a lot more insight, solve a lot more problems and move faster at innovation.

Companies have a real opportunity to learn from their data, extracting interesting facts, stories, and insights. With this data intelligence, Bryson believes companies can solve many more problems. Not only that, but companies that are data-driven can innovate more quickly.


Is There a Generational Gap Around Data Security and Data Consent?

Yes, there may be a more lax attitude to risk and data in the younger generations, but as they grow up, they have more to lose, whether financial or reputational. As they realize this, Bryson says, you will start to see a shift.

Bryson explains how his 17-year old son had his first experience with fraud, how it shook him, and how he very quickly added multifactor identification on all of his accounts.

While Gen X and Millennials seem more willing to share data, Bryson explains that that is only because they understand what value they are getting in exchange.

When it comes to the older generations, the bar is a lot higher, but Bryson doesn’t think that should scare companies. If they want to get the data that is going to make a difference, then they need to communicate the value they provide in return.


If the Future Is Data-Driven, How Can Companies Get More?

Crafting an effective data-driven strategy is based on acquiring consent.

He remembers back to his days at The Weather Company where the value exchange was as simple as – if you want the weather, you’re going to have to tell me where you live.

Today, this exchange is not as simple. Consumers are confused about what their data is being used for. If companies can jump that hurdle for people and explain and demonstrate their value, then Bryson believes that this will give them the edge.

“Consumers will want to consent more and share their data more as they understand the value exchange of doing that.”

Bryson believes that getting more consent will not be driven by any legal requirement, however. What he thinks will happen is that companies will start to recognize that by being transparent and open about the value exchange, only then will they be able to differentiate and outperform.

Having a “trusted handshake” with your consumer will be where companies can accelerate their growth. The challenge, however, is to explain the little black box of AI that’s going on behind the scenes. Getting over that fear of data will be the major challenge in acquiring the data that companies need in order to succeed.

Want more insight from Bryson? We guarantee you’ll be inspired when you listen to the full interview with Bryson Koehler, so listen in full to the Leading with Data podcast now!