How Smart Businesses Can Transform Their Data into Results
Headlines that claim “ data is the future” are wrong. Data is the present, and every company should have a strategy in place today to collect, store and analyze the data flowing through their organizations. The answers to your most important questions can be found in the numbers, and your business is talking to you through them all the time.
But ask yourself: are you listening? And if the answer is “no,” what are you going to do about it?
Understanding Data Is a Big Job
According to CSC (now DXC Technology), the amount of data produced annually will increase 4,300 percent by 2020. Most businesses struggle to handle the sheer volume of data created today, let alone what’s predicted in three years. How, then, should organizations prepare to handle this massive influx of information?
One way is to elevate data science to the C-suite: 80 percent of large enterprises will have a Chief Data Officer (CDO) in place by 2020, says research firm Gartner. Over the next decade, CDOs will become responsible for unlocking the answers to growth that data provides and minimizing risk at those large companies. Their priority will be to implement company-wide strategies for gathering the right data and analyzing it in a way that is helpful to their businesses.
While adding a CDO may be fashionable for Fortune 100 companies, it’s not a practical or even necessary role for every business. However, having no data strategy at all is no longer an option, either. Organizations need to decide what data they should collect, determine how secure that data is, and figure out how they can examine it and what actions should be taken as a result.
As a matter of fact, with the right strategy, mid-size companies actually can move faster and take advantage of opportunities more quickly than much larger organizations, which often spend days, even weeks, filtering out superfluous information to get to critical data. To make that kind of difference, a successful data strategy will:
Right Software, Right Data
Large businesses with complex needs partner with large and similarly complex software providers to help them make sense of massive amounts of data. However, software solutions built for enterprise-level organizations aren’t right for all companies. They aren’t designed for a specific industry or set of operational processes. They are generic, top-down, one-size-fits-all and do not understand specific and unique operational processes.
What data is most important to you? Is it from your customer service team taking orders or recording complaints? Is it from a machine on your production line that is churning out thousands of pieces an hour? Is it in your warehouse identifying which items are moving the fastest? The data most critical to you results from connecting those points in a way that provides meaningful answers to your business.
Tying it all together isn’t simple. It takes knowledge of your business and what will move the needle. That requires integrating data points from the shop floor, equipment, employees and customers and knowing what all of it represents.
The largest data-related issue most organizations struggle with, according to Aberdeen Research Group, is analytical results that just aren’t meaningful.
A key theme of this year’s Gartner’s Data and Analytics Summit was that “organizations have an abundance of data and many opportunities to get huge value from that data, both internally and externally. However, because they lack resources, strategy, and technology, they do not know how to get value from it,” according to Allan Wille, CEO of Klipfolio.
All the data in the world – even if it is the right data – is meaningless unless it’s transformed into usable metrics. A great data strategy includes visibility into information. Linking to the right data sources, digesting the right metrics, and presenting the information in a way that is comprehensive, yet easy to understand, is critical. Without the ability to hand powerful, relevant, actionable stats to senior management, improvements are impossible.
Changing the Game
Speaking of improvements: The right data provided by the right software in the right way changes the way companies work. It transforms their products and their interactions with customers. It revolutionizes industries – or sometimes creates entirely new ones.
For example, where would search engines be without data? “For many years, artificial intelligence researchers thought that if they understood the link structure of the internet and the structure of language, that would be enough to help people get good search results,” says Stanford economist Susan Athey. “It turned out that having a lot of data on how people behaved while searching was also crucial. Just knowing the most common things that people type after a particular three-letter sequence can be more important than a lot of semantic understanding.”
You know better than anyone what your company does well, but you may not know what could be improved. Manual, interim fixes and guessing games aren’t going to deliver the facts you need. You need to tune into the key data points that help your organization drive change.
And data doesn’t just help organizations get better; it also can ward off mistakes. Software tailored to your business will help you get to the root cause of problems, prevent them from causing massive reputational damage, and stop you from losing time, money and clients to a competitor.
Hear What You’re Missing, Data-Wise
Aberdeen recently found that 71 percent of companies with a data scientist saw increased visibility into business data. But if yours is one of the many organizations without a CDO, fixing issues won’t be the problem; instead, it will be not knowing that issues exist in the first place.
In that case, finding a software partner that knows your industry and builds solutions to fit your specific business is key to gathering and using crucial data. In the absence of a CDO, your software solution needs to take on that role and show you what you’re missing, data-wise.
In the digital economy, smart organizations know that successfully using data to drive operational change is now the most important way to gain a competitive edge. But it doesn’t matter that the answer to growth is right in front of you if you can’t understand what your data is telling you. An effective data strategy will help you hear it clearly – and act to transform your business.