SHIFTING PAST ROADBLOCKS IN A DATA-DRIVEN WORLD
The BlastPoint team spends a lot of time sitting with organizations discussing what their location intelligence needs are. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job because I love helping people solve problems. Sometimes the organizations we work with are big. But most of our customers are small to medium-sized business (SMBs) and nonprofits – whether it’s retail franchisors churning their great local business into a regional or national organization, food security advocates searching for residents most vulnerable to hunger, or small university administrators in pursuit of better serving their students and community. I love offering tools that work for these seemingly disparate groups. It’s seriously gratifying.
Last week we got to travel out of the office for a meeting in New Kensington, a small rust-belt city where community development leaders and university administrators are ambitiously working together to rebuild a local and regional economy that has been in decline for several generations. Any drive through Western Pennsylvania is an experience in rapturous landscape wrapped around the bones of abandoned infrastructure. In this case, the destination was a room full of brilliant and generously hearted people searching out a path forward for economically disenfranchised residents of their idyllic little Allegheny Valley city.
This wasn’t the first meeting we’ve had in a room full of people with huge ambition and even bigger heart. And in every meeting, there is a common theme – people have all the information they need to create a plan for success. They know we are in the midst of a data revolution. Across every industry – nonprofit and for-profit alike – there is the awareness that gut-driven decisions can’t compete with data-driven decision making. When it comes to site selection, economic development, technological innovation, targeted marketing, strategic business development, structuring social support services, everyone already knows: The information is there to make smarter decisions. If it’s not used, a crucial opportunity is being missed – a potential death knell for small organizations.
So why do our customers, who have the will, the imagination, the commitment, and the niche expertise, not implement data-driven decisions? Well, for two reasons:
1) Time: At this particular meeting one stakeholder raved about how much useful information the American Community Survey gives her access to but then lamented, “…you crack it open and then what? We don’t have time to parse through it, even if it is freely available.”
Data is a process. Deciding what questions to ask of the data takes time. Analyzing data takes time. Even outsourcing data to consultants takes time – days, weeks, oftentimes months – before results can even begin to be seen.
2) Money: Another stakeholder in this meeting disclosed that they were currently waiting on the results of a $250,000+ contract with a consultant from another city to move forward with site selection for one of their current projects. He didn’t expect to see the results of that expenditure for another three months.
Most SMBs and non-profits don’t have that kind of money and they certainly don’t have that kind of time. The margins are small when an organization is small and the work is time-sensitive.
Here in the rust-belt, we know what it means to be left behind as an economy changes. Boom time for the steel industry was so long ago that the people who experienced it are long past their working years. But here in the rust-belt something really fascinating is happening… the economy is changing again. And this time, with a clear-eyed vision about what happens when we don’t participate, communities are searching out ways to become a part of that change.
BlastPoint exists because we don’t think time or money should be the roadblock anymore.
We think that the data revolution can be for everyone and we think the data revolution can be good to everyone.
We think that the data revolution can include every organization that wants to participate.
It’s a joy to be a part of organizations transforming themselves, transforming their work. Bringing real, useful, effective solutions to people is fun. When we sit down to meet with people coming from organizations with very different missions and very different kinds of work all at the same table together, we show them a SaaS platform for translating big data into usable, readable, comprehensible knowledge in real time. Eyebrows raise. Shoulders drop. We’ve removed the roadblocks. And ideas about all of the problems that BlastPoint might help them solve start flowing.