How to Sweat Your Insight Assets

The term Sweating the Assets originated in the IT environment over a decade ago. Variously defined as cutting costs, virtualising, or “getting as much use as possible out of what you already possess”*, it is as imperative in the Insights world today because almost all of us have been asked to do more with less, regardless of our company, function, or level.

The great news is that sweating insight assets, aka knowledge activation (taking insights beyond assimilation into actions), works.

Successes from my personal experience include:

  • Improving 18% on the annual project budget by identifying and prioritising desired insights, planning and optimising projects, and not re-answering what is already known
  • Saving time and resources by establishing baseline knowledge and allowing internal teams to access materials themselves
  • Establishing a team as the company’s thought leaders via workshops, webinars, and other attention-grabbing communications
  • Helping new Insights Directors ramp up quickly to form a point of view on their existing assets and create a vision for their future.

The backbone for sweating your insights assets is creating order out of chaos – a knowledge system with all of your assets in a consistent, searchable, accessible format. 

An important strategy is creating a one-page abstract of each project that includes relevant findings as well as links to the source materials and contact details.  The abstracts are then complied into a meta-library which can be searched, skimmed, and quoted easily by anyone in the organisation.

This library can be created in SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, or another collaborative platform.  

Note:  Mike Stevens’s blog article 15 Tools to Manage and Analyse Qualitative User Research references larger scale tools but there are also easier solutions that are often just as effective at a fraction of the cost. 

Abstract Example

A retailer introduced a series of products endorsed by a celebrity chef.  The products included not only spices and seasonings but also pans, gadgets, cookbooks, and other general merchandise. 

Although the program was launched simultaneously, the products themselves were placed in existing sets as opposed to in a single promotion area.  The team’s analysis of financial performance and customer behaviour was conducted 13 weeks after launch and included a 30 slide PowerPoint summary. 

Our one-page abstract included:

TitleContact NameLink to Source
Objectives1. Evaluate the financial performance of the program both in aggregate as well as across each of the participating categories
2. Understand the shopper behaviour when buying the Chef-branded products
Parameters– 13 weeks vs. prior period
– Key metrics include sales, units, customer penetration, basket size, units per trip, trips per customer
– Items located in Spices as well as GM categories and integrated into existing sets as opposed to their own promotional area
Findings– Since launch, the Celebrity Chef program generated $24M in spend and had an average margin of 22%
– Over 3.5M units were sold in 314 stores across all banners since September
– Cookware and tableware programs made up more than 60% of total spend
– The overall program had 12% customer penetration in store
– Participating customers shopped a larger basket size, bought more units per trip, and made more trips vs. an average shopper
– Baskets containing program Items were more likely to contain fresh, organic, and ingredient-oriented products. Tableware customers tended to buy more prepared products
RecommendationsClearly call out the chef-branded items either through customer communications or separate promotional plinth
– Feature the GM items heavily in the weekly recipe offerings – e.g., “Drain the pasta using your Celebrity Chef colander”
Next Steps/ Actions TakenSecond Celebrity Chef brand promotion will shift to include food product and meal solutions.
Project Date 
KeywordsChef name; Spices & Seasonings; General Merchandise; Co-branded; Promotion

Once you have organised your knowledge assets, the next steps are understanding what you know and what you don’t know. 

Although AI programs can start this exercise, you still need human brainpower to complete the process. 

The What We Know summary should include the customer themes that you think everyone in your business should know, e.g., attitudes, behaviours, successful new products and promotions, growth and potential growth.

This ensures baseline knowledge, shuts down factual misrepresentations, and provides a context for future learnings. 

The What We Don’t Know summary identifies knowledge gaps vis-à-vis the customer strategy and allows you to develop and prioritise upcoming projects.

What We Know Highlights

Most new products’ success or failure can be determined within 12-16 weeksPromotions are becoming less effective with “hot” price points having to go lower and lower to get the same responseCreating a separate International section does not increase awareness of products
Although store quality cues vary widely by consumer, produce and meat (fish and seafood) are the consistent quality indicatorsThe country’s population and economy are forecasted to remain stagnant in the next five years, causing the median age to increaseCustomers like the reconfigured Dairy section, claiming it is easier to shop
Instagram comments are overwhelmingly positive, especially the prompt replies to comments and complaints.  The positive comments are shared an average 4.2 times.Consumers feel that they know their stores’ prices and that if another store is truly competitive, they will have somehow heard of it (WOM) or realized itClick and Collect has outperformed expectations

What We Don’t Know Suggestions

Are the customer segments still relevant?Can loyalty points overlays lessen the need for dramatic price reductions?Which retailers have the greatest growth potential?
Can we create a test & learn process to try new things and then modify or reject ideas as quickly as possible?Are there customer or product attributes that we should be understanding better or tracking?What are the key metrics and terminology that we should be using consistently?

The key to reaping the Sweating Your Assets benefits quickly is a comprehensive communication plan.  An effective plan should address:

  • How can you train users on the knowledge system and then encourage usage and interaction? 
  • Is there a forum to present the What We Know summary to the entire group or company?
  • How can the What We Know summary be used as input to the strategic planning process? 
  • How can you celebrate when you close knowledge gaps? 
  • How can you quantify and communicate the savings and return on investment associated with the initiative?

In my experience even 2-3 weeks is enough to start to see results – 50-100 project abstracts, construction of the knowledge system, and rough themes for What We Know and Knowledge Gaps presentations.

Click here for abstract and summary examples. Feel free to use or modify them for your purposes.

*Andy Mulholland, “Sweat the (IT) Assets, or Work (the People) Smarter?” CTO Blog, Capgemini, October 8, 2008

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