“Data-driven” – the beloved buzzword of businesses worldwide. It’s saturated pitches, websites, conferences and adverts for years without every really providing any substance or meaning. Yet our fascination with data remains as strong as ever: 99% of businesses think data is “very important”. Our problem doesn’t seem to lie in wanting to collect data, but in actually putting its wisdom to use. So how do we move from a flat culture of “data-driven” to one that actively puts data to work? How can we become “data-enabled”?
“Data-driven” was so successful as a marketing term because it tapped into the key power source behind business success – knowledge. It caused businesses to start investing in tracking tools in a frenzied attempt to understand themselves and their customers. They just lacked one crucial thing – direction. Data on its own isn’t very useful; you need to have a key line of enquiry or business objective to actually get anything valuable from it. So while many companies are now sitting on enormous amounts of data, many don’t know what to do with it – 85% of executives admit to not understanding their own data. So we need to go beyond “data-driven”. We need to start using data to make choices that have a quantifiable effect on our businesses – to enhance organizational practices and make intelligent business decisions. We need to go beyond the empty vanity of “metrics” and multicolored reports to actually find insights we can learn from.
Think of it this way: if the data you’re collecting doesn’t answer a particular question or help assess your accomplishments, it’s not that useful. There’s no innate worth in data itself, only how much it can teach you. To become truly data-enabled, you firstly need to know what questions you want to ask. For example:
Without having a question to lead your enquiry, you won’t know what data to actually collect or look at. Once you know what you're asking, invest your time to these three main areas:
To really stick, "data" needs to become a central part of your company culture. That doesn’t just mean having a technical aptitude for manipulating data – your people need to see data as one of your biggest assets for growth. Here’s how to go about it: