Here’s a cold, hard truth about data: it’s big, it’s gnarly, and many businesses still struggle with it. When it comes to selecting high-quality data, analyzing it, and prioritizing actionable insights for your business, many leaders are alarmingly amiss.
Being data-rich and insight-poor carries costly repercussions.
Research from Gartner notes, “Every year, poor data quality costs organizations an average of $12.9 million.” Not only can it take a massive toll on the bottom line, but over time, poor data quality can lead to poor decision-making.
If these numbers weren’t already alarming, consider that data will only become more prevalent in the workplace over the next few years, further exacerbating the problems business leaders are facing. McKinsey predicts that by 2025, “smart workflows and seamless interactions among humans and machines will likely be as standard as the corporate balance sheet, and most employees will use data to optimize nearly every aspect of their work.”
To this end, operating a successful business begins with demystifying data.
Company leaders must work with data and analytics experts to ensure that their data focus areas are aligned with overarching business objectives. Here are some initial steps that will help pave the path to becoming a data-led organization.
Adopt a humble mindset
When dealing with data, please take a deep breath and recognize that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed by its complexity. Think of data like a dense forest or grains of sand on a beach; finding a pattern, coherence, or trend is a daunting task that requires a methodical and intentional approach.
Data contains troves of information, and most businesses lack the expertise to collect the pieces that will have the greatest impact. Because of this, data demands attention; it requires a skilled and dedicated task force to make it easily digestible.
The data and analytics task force must be equipped to call out crucial touchpoints for the business and dissect what they mean and how they stack up in the market. For example, collecting user experience (UX) and website engagement data can help a brand create more meaningful and holistic customer experiences (CX), thereby improving critical factors such as retention and growth.
Automate where it makes sense
An organization can’t automate without high-quality data — or, at least, it shouldn’t. Business leaders should rely heavily on their data and analytics teams to inform and improve automation and determine whether such initiatives will produce measurable results.
While process automation can help address business challenges, lower costs, increase efficiency, and improve the overall CX, company leaders must be strategic throughout the implementation phase or risk their investments falling flat.
Provide continuous training and upskilling
Speaking of teams who get it, business leaders who understand the velocity and concerns of the growing skills gap will know the value of continuous training and upskilling for their employees. However, it’s easy to overlook this crucial area when dealing with many other facets of the business, such as cybersecurity and talent retention.
Make it a point to provide regular upskilling opportunities for existing employees (at all levels) to help cultivate data literacy within the organization. If the business has a Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Data Officer (CDO), these executives should work with HR to introduce mandatory data literacy programs.
It’s important to note here that while investing in employees’ skills is a top priority in building a data-led organization, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. It’s also imperative to make strategic investments in technology, process mapping, and cultural changes.
Ditch data denial for good
Many people do not trust the data they have or the initial insights they might glean from it; many aren’t even sure where it came from. Data denial sets in when company leaders can’t fathom the idea that a future can be built based on data (with rational and documented assumptions).
Typically, this mindset comes from traditional operating methods and relies heavily on once-accepted notions of “trusting your gut.” While not entirely a negative concept, making critical business decisions based on sheer intuition and experience alone is not a winning strategy.
Business leaders can overcome data denial by embracing and encouraging a companywide culture shift. It’s not enough to work differently; employees also need to think differently. Implementing a top-down adoption of a digital and data-first mindset can help enhance company culture.
It’s not too late to prepare for an impending future where the only businesses to thrive are those that have done the work of creating and executing an intentional data strategy. This strategy also becomes the fuel for igniting and accelerating digital initiatives, as it empowers teams to see what’s working and what’s not. It will allow them to make better and faster decisions that will impact the business for years to come.
If you’ve already tackled the steps above and are still struggling to get your business up to speed with your data-driven competitors, it may be time to work with a team that can help pinpoint problem areas, and plan and execute digital strategies for improvement.