Data is no longer a mere by-product of businesses’ operations; it’s become a critical asset for driving profitable growth and out-shining the competition. Without harnessing your data properly, your business will risk missing opportunities to create better customer outcomes, drive efficiencies, and make smarter decisions and investments.
This said, unearthing the potential that your data holds is not always an easy process. In this piece, we explore how to overcome the barriers to harnessing your data, how technology can help, and some solutions that you can use to get started.
The Power of Data in Your Business
Data is everywhere – from customer interactions to transaction and project records, businesses create large amounts of data every day. To tap into the power of your data to drive better business outcomes, you need to be able to collect, organise, interconnect, and analyse your data.
Comprehensive, organised and insightful data can make all the difference across your business’s operations, as well as the difference between making informed decisions and shooting from the hip.
The Benefits of Harnessing Your Business’s Data
The benefits of harnessing your data are vast, including:
- More accurate and informed decisions, making it easier to find and double-down on drivers of revenue and better customer outcomes.
- Better customer experiences from a deeper understanding of their needs and preferences.
- Improved productivity and efficiency from identifying bottlenecks and opportunities across workflows and how resources are being used.
- Enhanced competitive advantage from optimising your business’s ability to serve its market more effectively, alongside optimising how it works internally.
- Lower risks by picking up on them and addressing their causes earlier on before they have the chance to cause problems.
Given these benefits and the fact that harnessing data has increasingly become the talk of the town in recent years, how is it that businesses struggle to make the shift towards using data to its potential?
How Businesses Fail to Utilise Their Data
Shortfalls in using data to its full potential can be linked to each of the four key steps for harnessing data effectively.
Consider where your business stands with each of these pitfalls across the four key steps of collecting, organising, interconnecting, and analysing its data. By understanding the pitfalls and the stages they are in, you can start removing the obstacles to leveraging your data.
- Collecting Data
- Poor Data Collection Methods: Without the right tools and processes, potentially valuable data can fail to be collected.
- Lack of Clear Data Goals: Relatedly, being intentional about what data you want to collect and for what purposes, can help you to pick up the signals and organise your efforts.
- Poor Quality of Data: If tools, processes or people end up collecting inaccurate or low-quality data, this will lead to misleading insights and decisions later on.
- Data Privacy Issues: Limitations around collecting some kinds of data, such as regulated personal data for marketing purposes, can limit your ability to harness it.
- Organising Data
- Lack of Standardisation: Inconsistent data formats and lack of standardisation can lead to issues with integrating data and making comparisons later on.
- Inefficient Data Storage: Without a convenient, well-structured approach to storing and locating data, you can risk creating inconsistencies across your stored data.
- Poor Metadata Management: Inadequate labelling and description of your data can make it harder to manage, search for and understand it.
- Overwhelming Data Volumes: Too much volume and types of data lacking proper organisation and prioritisation can be harder to manage and effectively use.
- Interconnecting Data
- Data Integration Challenges: As data comes from many sources and in many different formats, a key challenge for businesses lies in making their data comparable and relatable.
- Lack of Interdepartmental Communication: Connecting data, especially at first, requires solid coordination and communication across your teams.
- Inadequate Tools for Integration: Without tools that enable various apps and types of data to ‘talk’ to each other seamlessly and efficiently, a business will struggle to leverage its data holistically and at scale.
- Analysing Data
- Lack of Analytical Skills: A key aspect that grows in importance with the complexity of your data – without the right skills and expertise, your business may struggle to interpret data correctly and uncover more insights waiting to be discovered.
- Inadequate Analytical Tools: Without using analytical tools, it’s very likely a business will miss out on a greater number and depth of insights from their data.
- Inaccurate Data: Dually relevant to the collection and analysis stages, Irrelevant, outdated or inaccurate data can compromise insights and decision making.
The most helpful technology and methods for harnessing your data will depend on the issues that you find and the stages they are located in. For example, if a business has pockets of unclean, partial, and inaccurate data in its CRM, it would be best to address this before prioritising and connecting this data to other channels and analysing it.
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Technology Solutions for Data-Driven Success
There are a number of kinds of technology that can help you harness your data to its full potential, they include:
- Business Intelligence Tools: Tools like Tableau and Power BI can transform various datasets into insightful and actionable information for your business. These platforms focus on analysing and leveraging data in one handy place.
- Data Management Platforms: These platforms, like SAP and Oracle, can help with tracking, consolidating, and integrating data from various sources, serving as a full-cycle solution for maintaining the quality of your data and harnessing it.
- Customer Relationship Management Software: CRMS such as Hubspot and Salesforce have deep and versatile data reporting, management, and integration capabilities; it’s not just setting up this software, it also needs to be used to its potential.
- Cloud Computing: Cloud services provide scalable data storage and computing power to handle large volumes of data.
- Content Management Systems: Platforms such as Microsoft Syntex offer a powerful system for connecting, managing, updating, and analysing data across your documents.
A Roadmap to Data-Driven Business Outcomes
With the challenges and some solutions outlined, your business can use these key steps to organise its efforts:
Audit Your Current Data
Assess the quality, accessibility, and relevance of your current data. Identify gaps, opportunities, and areas for improvement to prioritise your objectives.
Set Your Objectives
With a view of your current data posture, define what you want to achieve with your data next. These goals could be framed in terms of the four steps of collecting, organising, interconnecting, and analysing your data
Deploy the Right Features, Tools and Processes
There will be helpful solutions within your current tech stack or in the wider marketplace that can help you to achieve your goals. By identifying and implementing them in a way that works in alignment with your business processes, you will be able to harness your data more effectively.
Build or Acquire Expertise
As you expand your leverage of your data, it’s likely you will need to train your team with the knowledge and skills needed to leverage any new technology and data-related processes well
Create a Data Culture
Encourage data-driven thinking across your organisation. This involves not just access to data but understanding its importance in decision-making. Encourage innovation, creativity, and problem solving among your team to enshrine the harnessing of data in your business.
Commit to Continuous Improvement
The opportunities that data can offer to businesses are virtually unlimited, especially for any business getting started with deeply using its data. Ensure that progress in the harnessing of your data is monitored and measured, and be prepared to refine your approach over time.
In a world where data is the new currency, failing to leverage it can leave businesses at a significant disadvantage. By understanding the value of your data and deploying the right technological tools and strategies, you can unlock its full potential. This journey requires commitment, the right expertise, and a willingness to adapt and learn, but the rewards – more informed decision-making, improved efficiency, and better customer engagement – make it a more than worthwhile endeavour for your business.
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