Want to improve your decision-making process? These days, gut instinct is no longer enough if you want to remain competitive. Most organisations realise that data should lie at the heart of their decision making.
With technology underlying almost every aspect of your business, you can use the data it generates to see exactly what’s happening in your organisation and use the information to make your business more agile by testing out different scenarios and their success.
You doesn’t necessarily have to be a data scientist to reap the rewards. There are some simple steps you can take to make your business decisions more data-driven.
Instinct Over Data: What You Gain from Data-Driven Decisions
Today, the top companies around the world use data to make decisions about their business. The reason they’re leading the way is that they’ve gained a strategic advantage over their rivals simply by shifting their focus to data rather than relying on business acumen alone.
Fewer top-performing companies (40%) than laggards base the majority of their business decisions on gut feel or experience (70%). In other words, more organisations that make data-driven decisions are at the top of their game than businesses whose decisions are driven by instinct.
Here are just some of the things you stand to gain by becoming a data-driven organisation:
- Remain competitive among forward-thinking companies that do use data to their advantage
- Data-driven companies are more customer focused and enjoy a deeper insight into the customer and their journey
- Cost-effective – it can be costly to store large volumes of data, especially if you only use it for compliance purposes
- Detect new or missed opportunities, helping your company grow and improve regularly
- Become more agile and better able to respond to markets
Doesn’t Let Data Lead You Down the Garden Path
It has to be said that the vast amounts of data at your disposal doesn’t necessarily add up to improvements in the way you do business.
Data is only as valuable as the insights you can draw from it, and with all the information that’s floating about, it’s easy to find yourself being led astray.
The key to drawing real value from it is identifying which data to use. The metrics you use (what you measure, such as page views or conversions) will determine how successful your data-driven decisions are. The ones you should be looking at are areas of the business that are most crucial to its growth.
These are some of the questions you should be asking:
- Where did the data come from, and is it truly representative?
- If you’ve made assumptions based on the data, would these assumptions still stand under a different set of results?
- Would independent variables change the results?
- Could you use a different analytical approach?
How to Become More Data-Driven in 5 Steps
With all this in mind, let’s become more data-driven, shall we?
Step 1: Strategy
Data-driven decision making starts with the all-important strategy. This helps focus your attention by weeding out all the data that’s not helpful for your business.
First, identify your goals — what can data do for you? Perhaps you’re looking for new leads, or you want to know which processes are working and which aren’t.
Look at your business objectives, then build a strategy around them — that way you won’t be dazzled by all the possibilities big data has to offer.
Step 2: Identify key areas
Data is flowing into your organisation from all directions, from customer interactions to the machines used by your workforce. It’s essential to manage the multiple sources of data and identify which areas will bring the most benefit. Which area is key to achieving your overarching business strategy? This could be finance or operations, for example.
Step 3: Data targeting
Now that you’ve identified which areas of your business will benefit the most from analytics and what issues you want to address, it’s time to target which datasets will answer all those burning questions.
This involves looking at the data that you already have and finding out which data sources provide the most valuable information. This will help streamline data. Remember that when different departments use separate systems, it can lead to inaccurate data reporting. The best systems can analyse data across different sources.
Targeting data according to your business objectives will help keep the costs of data storage down, not to mention ensuring that you’re gaining the most useful insights.
Keep an eye on costs, and keep the board happy, by focusing only on the data you really need.
Step 4: Collecting and analyzing data
Identify the key players who will be managing the data. This will usually be heads of departments. That said, the most useful data will be collected at all levels and will come from both external and internal sources, so you have a well-rounded view of what’s going on across the business.
To analyse the data effectively, you may need integrated systems to connect all the different data sources. The level of skills you need will vary according to what you need to analyse. The more complex the query, the more specialised skills you’ll need.
On the other hand, simple analytics may require no more than a working knowledge of Excel, for example. Some analytics platforms offer accessibility so that everyone can access data, which can help connect the entire workforce and make for a more joined-up organisation.
The more accessible the data, the more potential there is for people to spot insights from it.
Step 5: Turning insights into action
The way you present the insights you’ve gleaned from the data will determine how much you stand to gain from them.
There are multiple business intelligence tools that can pull together even complex sets of data and present it in a way that makes your insights more digestible for decision makers.
Of course, it’s not about presenting pretty pictures but about visualising the insights in a way that’s relatable, making it easier to see what actions needs to be taken and ultimately how this information can be used in the business.
See an example:
Let Data-Based Lessons Shape Your Business
Becoming a data-driven organisation is a little more difficult than waking up one morning and deciding to use data to drive your business decisions. And it’s not just about selecting the best analytical tools that will help you derive insights from data, although of course, it helps to have the right technology architecture in place.
It’s about realigning your organisation’s culture to make sure that everyone knows the value of the data — and how to make the most of it.
Change has to come from the top, and transforming company culture means getting leadership on board. The best way to get leadership to sit up and take notice is by showing how analytics will bring value to the organisation.
As you begin applying those insights directly to the business, using them in the decision-making process will start to become embedded within the organisation.