“Each of us is now a walking data generator.” –Andrew McAfee, Harvard Business Review
The term “big data” isn’t exactly a friendly one. It conjures up images of numbers ticking across a screen or servers churning away as they process terabytes of information. But the application of big data is incredibly personal. Data—and how it’s used—can help improve customer relations, streamline operations, or develop new products to meet market demands. Big data can give companies valuable information about internal operations (processes, employee engagement, communication efficiency). Or, it can boost external operations by streamlining advertising, enhancing customer experiences, or identifying inefficiencies. In short, big data can be converted to business intelligence.
No matter the size of your company or your operating budget, it is possible to put data at the center of your decision-making. A data-driven workplace reduces costs and operates more efficiently by putting an end to decision-making based on hunches and anecdotal evidence.
The solution, however, is NOT to throw money at big data systems and hope your company sees improvements. In order to take full advantage of data, your business will have to restructure itself to accommodate a new data-driven philosophy. Start by focusing on these three key areas:
If a company is going to successfully put data at the core of its operations, the leadership has to be on board. In some cases, managerial teams will have to be trained to think about decision-making in a different way. In a data-driven company, the loudest voice or the highest paid person in the room isn’t the default decision maker. Instead, the process is more neutral and reliable, as it depends on collected data and analysis. As Andrew McAfee of the Harvard Business Review says in a recent article, “Smart leaders across industries will see using big data for what it is: a management revolution.”
What does a data-driven leader look like? This is a person who supports thoughtful, in-depth analysis and encourages decision-making based on findings. This is a person who is humble enough to realize that she may not have all the answers, or that her initial hunches may be proven incorrect by data analysis. Such a leader does not feel threatened by data-backed decisions, but embraces them as useful strategies that will potentially help the company.
2. A Robust IT Team
A company can purchase an expensive, top-of-the-line data analysis program, but if they do not also invest in a quality data analysis team, the investment will be almost worthless. Take the time to assemble an IT team that is well-versed in collecting, managing and analyzing data. These team members are essential to the decision-making process and have the potential to provide the keys to positive change.
Make sure these team members are supported in their roles. Check in with them frequently to see if they have the resources—tools, time, and support—to provide useful, in-depth analysis.
Above all, it is important to respect the findings of your data analysis team. Encourage honest, complete reports, not reports that are catered to highlight what the leadership wants to hear.
3. Incorporate data into the culture
A data-focused company integrates its philosophies into the workplace culture. Such a company encourages thoughtful decision-making at all levels, driven by evidence. Team meetings revolve around sharing data and developing ideas that stem from that data. Instead of relying on opinions and hearsay, team members who know the value of data will begin to ask “What do we know?” and “How can we apply that knowledge to our organization?”
To encourage this data-centric culture, it is useful to give employees the language and background they need to talk intelligently about data. Programs such as the Baldrige Excellence Framework can help company leadership understand the potential for data to improve customer relations and satisfaction, streamline systems, and encourage purposeful innovation.
Dive into data! The companies that focus on incorporating data-driven decision-making into their leadership, their IT department, and their company culture will begin making mindful decisions that can lead to huge successes. The potential for big data is huge. How will you begin to integrate data collection and analysis into your organization?
Want to talk data? I have experience in research, data collection, data management, and data analysis. I am also involved in conducting organizational evaluations against the Baldrige Excellence Framework. Contact me and let’s talk about how data can make a different in your organization.