How Data-Driven Is Your Business?

No, this is not another Medium post about how hard it is to write!

But seriously, the bad news upfront, if your answer was not an immediate “VERY” then you probably won’t be in business for much longer.


While writing this, Amazon and every other data-driven online business are busy stocking up on coffin decorations for Sears, JC Penney and hundreds of bookstores around the country.

No organization is immune. Even banks are having a hard time keeping the lights on at hundreds of branches. Nothing apocalyptic, we just want to do more and more online.

Spending hours at a mall is not fun. Unless you are that type. I’d rather claim back these hours for family time, working out, or hacking a SQL query with datasets from the Census Bureau.

A lot of obvious here for the data buffs, but countless businesses and governments in an increasingly globalized economy are simply data-illiterate or data-poor. (Pause here and realize the size of the opportunity).

The reality is humans have been doing data for a long time. Hieroglyphics on a temple, for example, are relatively packed with data. Ask any archaeologist.

We can argue that Egyptian Hieroglyphics were the ancient Egyptian’s form of First-party data (data generated and collected directly by them). Hieroglyphics are data rich because they were well organized, protected and accessible. Today, that data is priceless.

Hieroglyphics on a temple wall at Karnak, Egypt.

Big data, however, is hieroglyphics at scale. With big data, we are fusing human intellect and logic with machine ability to compute at scale.

Today, running a meaningful, growing business means constant immersion in 1st-, 2nd- and 3rd-party data (second-party data is other people’s first-party data, and third-party is market bought data). Your data too must be well organized, protected and accessible to be of value to you.

From hiring, scoring and cost analysis to environmental and macro data, what is seemingly irrelevant quickly becomes insightful when crossed with other data points.

Try crossing DNA data with Doordash orders… that should be fun!

No matter what your business is and how big it is, you owe it to your business and its longevity to ask: How data-driven is my business?

Take a closer look at your data strategy. Data is not overrated and hiring a CDO or creating a Chief Data function is not hype. Check out this piece by PWC about the evolution of the chief data officer role.

Know how to analyze massive stashes of information and take timely action, and you suddenly have a leg up on your competition. That could also be the very reason you avoid pulling a “Sears.”

There are many opinions about the demise of Sears and others that share their fate. I boil it down to either the failure to act on data or the inability to collect data, not sure which is worse.

Bitcoin is not the only new form of currency. Well organized and live 1st-party data augmented with 2nd- and 3rd-party data is as good as Bitcoin.

The good news is, the world has got ways to go to become the information utopia. We still live in a mixed economy. Traveling between different parts of the world, and even the US, is like time travel at times. Is the digital divide disappearing? (debatable).

Not too fast, though. We all know what happened to the monkey with a big bag of data. The monkey sold the data and lived happily ever after and we all had a great laugh.

Monkeys feverishly at work