Edwina Dunn is one of the pioneers of data science and this short paper is the distillation of more than twenty years’ experience of using meticulous data analysis to understand and respond to customers – most famously in the form of the Tesco Clubcard. It is worth reading both for some pithy insights – data is art as well as science – and, more unexpectedly, for what feels like a slightly dated approach. “Data is the new oil” may be true in the sense that is a transformational opportunity, with Zuckerberg as the new Rockefeller, but data is not finite, it is not destroyed by use and it is not fungible. More tellingly she makes the point that ‘Owning the customer is not a junior or technical role; it’s one of the most important differentiators of future winners and losers.’ You can see what she means, but shopping at a supermarket is not supposed to be a form of slavery, still less so (if that were possible) is that a good way of thinking about the users of public services.
It doesn’t sound as though the Cluetrain Manifesto has been a major influence on this school of thought. Perhaps it should be.