All eras in business are animated by a few core concepts. Depending on the decade, ideas like “TQM” or “Just In-time manufacturing” were the subject of numerous articles, media briefings, and marketing slicks. Over the last 10 years or so, both the sheer volume and the amplitude of such messaging has taken on unheralded proportions—no concept indicates this better than “data.”

Data. Data. Data. That’s all we hear about today. We are asked if we are “data-driven” or if our companies utilize “Big Data.” We are told to adopt a “data culture” and that “data is the new oil.” Companies–both highly successful ones and ones on the brink–pivot to being “data” companies, providing “data-streams” to a “data intensive” economy. And so on. You get the picture.

As with all such trends, amidst the hyperbolic phrases and repetitious marketing activations, there are solid kernels of reality. As sick and tired as we are all of hearing about data-data-data, we know that there is much merit in the concept. We also know, however, that theoretical invocations and decontextualized pronouncements are the stuff of opinions but not of execution or success.

No one knows this better than Vivek Bhaskaran who, in the words of one of his mentors, is “the most natural entrepreneur I have ever met.” Founder and CEO of the QuestionPro group of companies, Bhaskaran started almost two decades ago by writing basic survey software; by 2021, his company is a leader in providing data collection, refinement, and idea actualization solutions. At the hub of QuestionPro is the idea of Customer Experience (or Partner Experience or Employee Experience) inflected by data.

Bhaskaran is not an absolutist—he knows data can only go so far. “Without the customer at the center and without a real understanding of the need for empathy and empathic communications, data only goes so far. But it is essential. Necessary but not sufficient,” he says.

Industry pundits echo Bhaskaran’s point but they also issue an admonition. A prominent player in the CX space suggests that the approach to Customer Experience typical of people in that space and the approach of Data Scientists are so different that they “might as well occupy different universes.” The argument here is that without an organic connection between the two, without a uniting philosophy, the siloed approach won’t yield fruit.

The key to this industry is to blend data and CX into an operational model that doesn’t consign every study or every campaign to being a one-off. That is the genius of QuestionPro and the genius of enlightened hybrid professionals who know that data is King but only if it is offered the right crown.