Digital Intelligence: Innovation Is The Name Of The Game

Forrester has just published the second installment in our research series on digital intelligence, titled The Road To Digital Intelligence. This piece is the follow-up to Welcome To The Era Of Digital Intelligence, which introduced Forrester's vision for the next stage in the evolution of digital analytics.

I've been very busy recently speaking about and socializing the concept of digital intelligence. The response from Forrester clients and presentation attendees has been extremely enthusiastic. And while there is general agreement on the concept of digital intelligence, savvy practitioners recognize that it's not a quick fix. Digital intelligence involves tracking complex customer interactions across touchpoints, managing massive volumes of data, and delivering actionable analysis. Ultimately, digital intelligence is an analytics strategy rather than a singular project or technology implementation.

As organizations consider shifting to the digital intelligence paradigm, two very perceptive questions arise time and time again. "The Road To Digital Intelligence" aims to address these questions and provide a launching off point for the digital intelligence journey.

Question 1: How should I think about implementing digital intelligence in my organization? 

Digital intelligence is a long-term commitment that requires significant investments in multifaceted technical and organizational changes. I strongly recommend that organizations develop a roadmap as a prerequisite to pursuing digital intelligence. The roadmap documents the baseline current state and goals and lays out a plan to remediate any gaps in a logical, prioritized manner. A holistic digital intelligence road map incorporates five critical components:

  • Strategy. Articulating the balance between the needs of customers and firms to cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship. 
  • Metrics and KPIs. Evaluating complex user experiences against business goals.
  • Ownership. Leveraging skills and organizational design to deliver advanced as well as highly accessible analytics into the organization.
  • Optimization. Continuously optimizing a work-in-progress.
  • Technology. Deploying the infrastructure to collect, process, store, and distribute actionable analytics.

Question 2: What companies or industries currently do digital intelligence well?

As a nascent analytics approach, few organizations have fully achieved digital intelligence. There are signs of progress; I can report that several of my clients are actively working toward — or have recently completed — data warehouse projects that incorporate the foundational data collection and storage aspects of digital intelligence. These projects alone often deliver a substantial lift to organizations' analytics capacity. But digital intelligence goes further than pure data warehousing work, forcing us to look further afield for viable examples. 

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Fortuitously, I've been conducting a side project over the past few months to determine if gaming analytics represents a new branch in digital analytics. As I delved further into gaming analytics, I realized that gaming companies — for example Zynga, Playdom, and Bioware — represent a model for digital intelligence. It's impressive how seriously gaming firms take analytics. Don't believe me? Read Zynga's SEC Form S-1 registration statement that preceded their 2011 IPO; it's chock full of references to analytics as a core competency and competitive differentiator. 

It is fascinating to consider the analytics achievements of gaming companies. Their technical capabilities to manage incredible amounts of data, integration of analytics into the organization, expansive measurement techniques to accurately evaluate the health of the business, and adoption of optimization techniques are highly instructive for customer intelligence professionals considering the path to digital intelligence within their own organizations.

I hope that you will enjoy reading this report as must as I enjoyed researching and writing it. It's early days for digital intelligence and there is so much to learn. In the coming months I will continue to explore the components and best practices of digital intelligence. Please let me know if you're pursuing digital intelligence or have other great examples of firms that are!


Digital analytics

Great post. The example of gaming companies excellence in digital analytics is very interesting, however to the best of my knowledge they mostly involved with transactional analysis and not much else. While it is critically important to measure users engagement and behavior (transactions) while they are experiencing a product (game), it is very difficult to translate this information into actions without a context in which they experience the product. Many companies, both B2C and B2B, maintain forums and other forms of communities for their customers, however not too many use the customer generated content for systematic contextual analysis. It would be interesting to learn your opinion about importance and best practices for contextual type of digital analytics.

Greg, great point. Most

Greg, great point. Most solutions are currently optimized to handle standardized data, but there is a treasure trove of unstructured data from social and user generated sources that remains untapped. I think that this represents the next great opportunity in analytics. The ability to collect, store, and mine unstructured data beyond basic listening and keyword analysis is a significant challenge, but also a tremendous opportunity.

Digital Intelligence

Hi Joseph

I really like your thinking about Digital Intelligence. While I run a digital firm, I do think the term digital intelligence is a narrow term and my not last long. The reason being is that everything is pretty much digital today, and the data you collect is inherently digital.

I have preferred the term "Voice of the Customer" which not only puts the customer first in these concept, but it allows you to go beyond only digital in the data you collect as well as the channels you collect them.

However, I really enjoy reading your research.


Adam Froman
Delvinia & AskingCanadians

Thanks Adam. That's a fair

Thanks Adam. That's a fair point. And semantics are always a struggle in this type of situation. With digital intelligence the intent to remain focused and pragmatic rather than developing an overarching approach to all marketing analytics. I didn't want to boil the ocean on this one. To me, the word "intelligence" is the key, denoting a greater level of proactivity and actionability than we typically see today. Your idea on Voice of the Customer is well taken, although in many circles VOC already has established connotations. I am sure that the terminology will continue to evolve along with analytics.