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SAN FRANCISCO — Vijay Subramanian, chief analytics officer at NYC fashion startup Rent the Runway, jokes that he’s been living, breathing, and snorting data sets for a long time.

He wants everyone else snorting data, too.

When Subramanian joined the company, which rents stylish clothes to fashionistas, he demanded a centralized organization. That wasn’t just about organizational efficiencies, but about “cross-pollinating” all the data sets across Rent the Runway’s various business divisions.

“My role is to treat data as a strategic asset, and I think that’s how we approached it from day one,” Subramanian said on-stage at VentureBeat’s DataBeat conference Monday.

Tying together data from multiple sources can surface important contrasts and comparisons that may otherwise remain hidden, as an earlier DataBeat panelist explained. That could have a substantial effect on a company’s bottom line.

Although Ford Motor Company sells a very different product and employs over 180,000 people, not a few hundred, it seems to embrace the same data values.

Ford has employed deep analytics knowledge to improve its car designs and sales operations for a long time. But Ford data science manager Michael Cavaretta wants to tie it all together.

“We really aspire to go across those different areas to not only look at the high value add within those functional groups, but the strategic value add [across the entire enterprise],” Cavaretta explained.

That requires clear communication, said Cavaretta. You can tell great stories with data, but in the wrong hands, it can work against a business, obfuscating its objective.

“It sends shivers down my spine when [folks] use a graph that has like 25 equations on it” in a business presentation, he said. “It just sucks all the energy and oxygen out of the room.”

But at the end of the day, the end product needs to be stellar, otherwise all the data in the world won’t help you.

“If your analytics can’t support what you’re doing, you’ll find out pretty darn quick,” said Cavaretta. “If you can’t do the basic stuff well, pretty much everything else falls apart.”


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