Big data, big impact. That is, if you know how to use it. Since the 2008 data explosion, more and more organizations want in on the action. But while gathering and storing is one, finding a proper way to propel your business to the next level by datafying certain processes is another. Here are 6 do’s and don’ts you should keep in mind when you want to make your business more data-driven.
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1. Stick with the Strategy
It might not come as a surprise, but the first step towards a successful use of data is strategy. However obvious this sounds, organisations often underestimate the importance of a decent strategy and jump into the big datafying adventure without a clear objective. So whether you are already using data, or planning to start doing so very soon, double check what it is you want to achieve first and make a plan. A few other things your plan should include besides data are which analytic models and tools it needs. Here you can read more about those two aspects.
One of the reasons why it’s important to have a strategy is to keep your focus. It’s fairly easy to get lost in the big web of data and before you know it you are gathering and using information that isn’t relevant for your objectives.
2. People are Everything
The key to a proper use of data are the people dealing with it. Therefore, you need to get your employees on board straight from the beginning. That doesn’t mean you inform them about the top-notch data gathering system your company is going to use on the day you want to start. No, you include them from the -very first- moment you begin to consider datafying certain parts of the business; you speak with members of the workforce about your plans, you ask for their opinion and you determine a strategy together. Rather than imposing it on them, you make the datafying of your organisation a common project.
Equally as important is the training aspect. Make sure your ‘data team’ knows exactly what to do. It’s all good and well to be datafying, but what’s more important is how to get this to boost your business. If your employees don’t know enough about this subject-matter yet, arrange for them to get a proper training. Remember that follow-up courses may be needed whenever there is an update of the system, and think about the future too: have associates in your talent pool ready to take over if some day one of your data experts decides to leave and prepare them accordingly.
3. Think Culture
As with every form of change, culture is essential. You might want to consider data as a core part of your organisational culture. Make your company a place where the use of data in the business process is just as normal as getting a coffee from the coffee machine. Create an environment in which all employees are encouraged to ask questions such as: What does this data say about this process? Or: What insights can I deduct from these particular results? Ensure your workforce is completely at ease with the organisation using data.
Despite the fact that the use of data is omnipresent in today’s work environment, you need to bare in mind that new employees have to fit in a data-oriented culture. We wrote about the importance of culture fit and how to get your office to reflect your company’s culture before. You can read more about both topics respectively here and here.
4. Centralise Your Data
Data storage and centralisation are a known pitfall for organisations working with data. Different departments often have separate systems they work with as well as their own storage solutions. The biggest inconvenience of such a disparity is that it won’t give you a complete picture of your business. This is exactly what you don’t want to happen, you want to have all the data together in one place or at least accessible, so you can have a thorough analysis of how the company is doing.
5. Don’t Fall for Vanity Metrics
So you’re generating heaps of traffic to your website? Great. But your conversion rate is only 0.01%? Not so great. Traffic without conversion is a typical example of a so-called vanity metric; numbers and stats that look good, but have no real value. Make sure that you measure the right Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) or set the right ‘One Metric That Matters (OMTM) on every department. These are the metrics you use to measure the performance of your company or employees. KPI’s and the OMTM change every now and then, based on what you want to achieve at a certain moment in time, but they can make or break your data strategy. A perfect example of an OMTM can be found in ‘Lean Analytics’ by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz. They describe how Italian restaurant ‘Solare Ristorante’ keeps track of staffing costs to gross revenues from the day before. As soon as staffing costs exceed 30% of gross revenue, the manager knows he’s spending too much. One metric, that immediately tells him how the company is doing. Here you can read more about the OMTM and why you should use it.
6. Ask the Right Questions
There’s no such thing as a bad question, right? Think again. When it comes to data, you want to determine beforehand exactly what information it is that you need. Then, you can ask data specific questions. It’s a common error for organisations using Data solutions to expect great insights without deciding what they need to know first. Obviously this is linked to the ‘Have a Plan’ tip we mentioned earlier, so start with your end goal and then finish with the right questions.
So Keep Cool
There are many, many different systems and tools out there related to big data. It might even be more difficult to pick a solution that suits you than to analyse the data. Stay focused on your company’s goals and don’t be tempted to gather information on subjects that are irrelevant for the organisation.
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