Surveying the Experts: How to Make Data Work for Your Business

Surveying the Experts: How to Make Data Work for Your Business

Today’s business leaders largely recognize the importance of embracing analytics and implementing data-driven processes. However, the conditions necessary to truly take advantage of data aren’t built in a day and must be nurtured — selecting the optimal data strategy demands careful consideration. The right direction will transform a business into one that can capture data, analyze that data to highlight the actionable insights hidden within multitudes of red herrings and then successfully follow through on putting those insights into action.

A smooth data adoption process may go as follows:

– The IT department discovers a way for this data to provide value and changes its practices to maximize the advantage.

– Soon enough, other departments and business leaders catch wind of this success and begin integrating that available data into their own activities.

That’s the ideal (although still uncommon) scenario. In practice, obstacles abound, and many businesses don’t have as easy an experience. Too often, decision makers underestimate the value of data-informed decision making, and analytics reports go ignored. In other cases, the problem is actually too much data, as overwhelmed managers have trouble determining what information to focus on, and poor analysis means “data insights” are based on partial information and lack validity. This oversimplification of data is a common issue as decision makers require streamlined data to support decisions — but often, in the process, miss the forest for the trees.

For advice, I consulted a panel of data experts on how businesses should best approach data and build a successful data analytics strategy. The experts I spoke with offered these eight tips:

Engineer James Barbee advises earning goodwill among employees and leadership by offering a clear understanding of how analysis is conducted. Knowing how data is collected and how insights are arrived at make the results a lot easier to trust and rely upon. Employees should feel empowered and augmented by data, not shackled or replaced by it. Be sure to communicate that data is there to complement and enhance existing processes. At the same time, construct models with iteration and refinement in mind, ready to be further optimized by new information. Data can reach some strange conclusions if models become decoupled from actual human behavior. Keeping analytics grounded by human input will not only ease adoption, but can also improve the quality of insights.

Jon Baker of Wire Stone points to the value of clearly understanding your data sources and your capabilities to leverage potential new sources. Once you have a full view of your own data, consider the possibilities that may be offered by data belonging to the companies and services that support your business. Third-party data is a powerful tool that can go a long way toward a business’ growth.

3) Fill gaps in your data and analytics capabilities.

Mark Donatelli of VML advises that valuable data can be gleaned from public and free sources — which are often overlooked but can nonetheless provide key information. It’s also important to assess available analytic tools and resources and ensure they align with what is needed to achieve business goals.

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