Generating Insights from Raw Data: A Tech Titans Forum Recap

By Jan Spence

Many organizations are striving to deliver better product and customer experiences by harnessing data and technology in more advanced ways. Their goal: to respond intelligently to customers’ needs and preferences. Data is often the toughest challenge, based on all the disparate data signals streaming from various channels, platforms and systems. How does one transform all these data signals into actionable intelligence?

This panel — moderated by Ascend Marketing founder, Rich Herbst, and comprised of senior managers in the hospitality, retail and services industries — offered some interesting insights into the following areas:

• Data access and data flow management

• Harnessing data for customer perspective and insights

• Data modeling and machine learning to drive insights

• Data activation to fuel brand action

• Dashboarding your data insights


sachin shroff the container store headshot

Sachin Shroff

​Sr. Director, CRM & Marketing Analytics at The Container Store

Brigid Koch

Sr. Manager, Strategy & Solutions at Hilton

venkatesh kalluru wiweeki headshot

Venkatesh Kalluru

Chief Technology Officer at Sertics


Rich Herbst

Managing Director at Ascend Marketing

Harness data responsibly.

Brigid Koch, Senior Manager, Strategy & Solutions at Hilton

Data and technology are revolutionizing the relationship between customers and companies. This brings with it many opportunities for marketing departments, but it also entails risks. The creepy factor and too much transparency start to come to the surface, and customers can stop freely volunteering information. Businesses need to sync up their data, or this could erode confidence with the customer. Koch noted that Hilton gathers information on customers across multiple departments — the front desk, events and loyalty programs to name a few. With all that data, information on kids, vacations, business travel and date preferences has to be kept connected to the department so the customer does not feel like their information is being shared but used appropriately.

Understand the value of gaining a 360-degree view of your customer and prioritize organizational efforts accordingly.

Sachin Shroff, Sr. Director, CRM & Marketing Analytics at The Container Store

Shroff noted that it is super critical to get a 360-degree view of the customer for teams across the organization to be more focused and actionable in product development, marketing, advertising and the customer experience. Data at each stage of the cycle is important, but you don’t have to wait for all the data to respond. Start with what is easy and begin to understand the customer life cycle, and start looking at patterns. Then you can begin looking at what is most important to your customers and where to spend extra time, if they want improved service, faster response, etc. 

Building a 360-degree view of your customers not only takes many systems; it takes many integrations across teams and platforms.

Venkatesh Kalluru, Chief Technology Officer at Sertics

Kalluru compared the effort of building a 360-degree view of your customers to deep sea fishing. Do you need a net? What type of pole? Which bait? What part of the ocean is best for catching certain fish? Developing a full plan (and one with historical context) helps your organization empathize more clearly with your customer’s viewpoint, which in turn can lead to building new hypotheses around gaps in KPIs or campaign expectations. Herbst, the moderator, noted that “an integrated view enables your team to be more effective marketing technologists — your teams can more easily understand intent and identify potential data collisions or fragmentation across channels.”


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Data access to managers is important and creates more agile workflows.

Kalluru noted that data access used to be limited to IT departments, but automation and artificial intelligence enhancements now give managers the ability to retrieve and manipulate data. This is extremely powerful for managers that are wanting to move quickly down the path of activation. 

Koch added that quick access to data allows managers to run queries on their own and more quickly concept programs based on customer insights.  

Kalluru cleverly summed it up with a familiar quote from Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Today’s businesses hold more data than ever before and face more scrutiny with regulations, and with this comes the responsibility related to how information is stored, shared, protected and used.

North Texas as a Marketing Technology Hub

Dallas and the North Texas area has been strongly emerging as technology hubs in the past few years, and the caliber of panelists and mind share at the conference was a testament to the movement. We’d like to thank all panelists and attendees for a dynamic and well-informed discussion, and Tech Titans for hosting the event.

Moderator Rich Herbst remarked on the emerging and diversifying talent and company pools. “It’s exciting to see this level of energy happening in the market today. I haven’t seen anything like it in my 15 years in the space and I’m encouraged at the intrepid nature of not only today’s leaders, but of our technology workforce.”

About Ascend

We are a marketing services provider deeply dedicated to helping organizations optimize their customer engagement strategies.

Data powers the way we think — it’s the backbone of how we transform information into targeted insights that emotionally speak to customers and businesses. Our team of strategists, data analysts, designers and certified marketing technologists have diverse, enterprise-level expertise in delivering sophisticated, personalized customer experiences.

Working in both proprietary advanced technology and the latest marketing platforms (Marketo, Salesforce, Adobe Experience Cloud, and Hubspot) our team ensures unified communications and workflows across all channels (social, web, email, display and search) in real time.


As marketers process more data than ever before to create tailored experiences, customers increasingly demand assurance that their information is being handled ethically and securely.

Sales and Marketing bring their own value to an organization, but the key is aligning to maximize performance. We’ve curated the best practices for aligning Sales and Marketing in 2021.

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