The choice of whether to create a data team — whether to put data at the center of operations and decision making — is a choice every business will need to make. The real question is how soon they will make it. Companies that act quickly will have the most to gain. 

In 10 years, no one will be asking whether or not to create a data team. That’s because the companies that haven’t will likely be out of business, overtaken by competitors who took data seriously. Here’s a quick look at how companies with data teams look compared to those without them:

Business value of data teams

That is how powerful and transformative a data team can be for a company. Here are just a few of the ways data teams are having an immediate business impact:

1. Establish the single source of truth

Businesses are creating massive amounts of data — logistics, sales, marketing, usage and sensor data. Often these different kinds of data are captured in different systems. It is the role of the data team to establish the integrity of data across all sources. They work to establish a source of truth that everyone in the company can trust. In the age of data-driven decision making, your decisions are only as good as your data. 

2. Remove biased questions

When you have line-of-business leaders tasked with hitting a number, it’s difficult not to let bias creep into reporting and decision making. Even well-intentioned business leaders may suffer from recency or confirmation bias, but a centralized data team tasked with finding insights will remove this layer of bias. The data team’s job isn’t to assign blame or take credit, but simply to tell leadership what the data says and doesn’t say.

3. Get a more accurate view of the underlying health of your business

Say  sales drop suddenly. When asked why, the sales leader may dig into his or her own data and come back with an explanation. But looking at only one subset of data (in this case, sales) often can’t help you isolate the root cause. Perhaps the real reason for the drop is related to marketing, or a product change or some other force in the market. This is where the data team can help. Because they have the access to all of the company’s data and the expertise to perform deep analysis, they can look for patterns that professionals with a narrower focus may not even think to dig for.

4. Base your business and product strategy on data, not hunches

This is the true superpower of a data team: looking at all data across your business, letting you quickly iterate on your product, business strategy and go-to-market plans. Only by looking across different teams and business units can you really identify which tactics and levers will have the biggest impact. And critical decisions you make are actually less risky, because they are backed by accurate data and careful analysis.

5. Make sure your systems are implemented correctly from the start

A data team can break down data silos by ensuring that every new tool is able to pull the right kind of data in the right way. How you implement the system, how you track it, how you name and organize the data that is being pulled helps you lay the foundation today that will allow for faster and more accurate analysis tomorrow.

6. Determine the right KPIs, upfront

How do you validate whether a change in strategy is actually working? Data teams can help your business develop the right goals for individual teams and initiatives. They can make sure there is a plan in place to track their progress and evaluate blended data to measure impact across the business. Having common KPIs helps with company-wide alignment, ensuring that different teams are working toward a common goal.

7. Define key terms

How do you make sure different teams across the business define terms the same way? It may seem like a simple problem to solve, but agreeing on key business definitions can be a harrowing task. For example, who counts as a “customer”? Is it someone who has paid for the product? Someone who has logged in, but is not active? What about users on a free trial? How you define key business terms can wildly skew numbers. And having different teams define terms differently is a recipe for disaster.

8. Create stickier products that customers love

The most data-driven companies are combining actual usage data with operational data (such as sales) to create breakthrough products. Do customers tend to stop using your product at a certain point? Looking at sales data alongside customer usage and behavioral data can help product teams build stickier products.

9. Transform your company culture

When businesses create a data team, they experience a company-wide transformation. Because data can be used to answer every question, leaders begin to expect data to inform their team’s decisions. This incentivizes teams to make every decision a data decision, creating a cultural change that touches every facet of the business.

In the age of data-driven decisions, your decisions are only as good as your data team. Learn more about the steps your business can take to grow and empower your data team, and the benefits you will realize as result in our new guide, Building & Empowering Your Data Team.