The need for forward-thinking companies to make the fullest use of data in today’s ever-changing business landscape is abundantly obvious. The way in which technology has advanced over the last few years means that powerful insights can be obtained when a business chooses to be data-driven.

It’s hugely advantageous when data is mined and used correctly, and works best when companies give all staff, rather than a select few, access to the possibilities.

One of the all too common issues, however, is that companies find that access can prove to be problematic. Simply put, the data isn’t available to decision-makers when they need it.

Accessing high-quality and complete data in a particular timeframe is crucial for a business, so WGP Global have put together a step-by-step process to help businesses understand why it is that data-driven decisions are the future for all companies.

FIVE STEPS TO DATA-DRIVEN BUSINESS DECISIONS

Data should now be at the heart of the decision-making process for any company. If you want to remain competitive, it’s vital that technology underpins your business.

What’s happening across the organisation can easily be understood by reading the data produced which, as a result, should make every aspect more seamless as a result.

Most importantly, it relies on fact rather than ‘gut instinct’ or ‘hunch.’

WHAT YOU GAIN FROM DATA-DRIVEN DECISIONS

The leading companies of today are in that position because of a strategic advantage given to them by their ability to read data properly in relation to their business activities.

Indeed, whilst business acumen must not be pushed aside completely, it can no longer be relied upon as a standalone decision to get ahead of the competition.

Shifting the main focus to data-driven decisions will keep organisations at the top of their game.

By becoming a data-driven company, there is, evidently, much to gain. For example;

New or even missed opportunities can be detected, ultimately leading to growth.

Using data to your advantage can be a cost-effective way of storage of large volumes of work as well as remaining competitive.

Companies are able to respond to the markets quicker, as well as being more customer focused because of the deeper insight they’re able to gain.

DATA MUST BE USED FOR IMPROVEMENT

Data is only as valuable as the insights you can draw from it, and the key to drawing real value from it is identifying which data to use. Vast amounts of data at your disposal don’t necessarily add up to improvements in the way you do business.

Questions that are pertinent are whether you could use a different analytical approach? 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?

HOW TO BECOME MORE DATA-DRIVEN IN 5 STEPS

STEP 1: Strategy

A lot of companies start by trying to quantify their current performance. But part of the beauty of data and the power of business intelligence is that you can drill into an endless amount of very detailed metrics. From clicks, site traffic and conversion rates, the list goes on.

So, ask yourself: What makes the company better at what they do?

You can approach this question by focusing on stage growth, where a start-up would focus most on metrics that validate business models, and an enterprise company would focus on metrics like customer lifetime value.

Start by going from top-down through each department to elicit requirements for every department. Some examples of KPI metrics are:

Product

Product-related tickets, Customer satisfaction, Usage statistics and SaaS products

Marketing

Brand awareness, Conversion rate, Site traffic and Social shares

Research and Development

Number of bugs, Length of development cycle and App usage

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. What area is key to achieving your overarching business strategy? This could be finance or operations, for example.

STEP 3: DATA TARGETING

Now 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 data sets 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 cross-analyse data from 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 the board happy, by focusing only on the data you really need.

STEP 4: COLLECTING AND ANALYSING 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 specialist 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 makes for a more joined-up organization.

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 need to be taken and ultimately how this information can be used in the business.

Selecting the best analytical tools that will help you derive insights from data isn’t the be all and end all, but it helps to have the right technology in place.

The reality is that a change of culture will ensure that everyone knows the value of the data and how to make the most of it.

The change has to come from the very top and filter down of course, and the best way to get leadership to get involved, sit up and take notice is by evidencing clearly just how analytics will bring value to the organisation.

Once those insights are applied directly to the business, their use in the decision-making process will start to become second nature.

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