When gathered from the right sources and interpreted accurately, data can have a tremendous impact on any aspect of your business. Some IT experts and business leaders have referred to data as the new gold, and it’s evident why this is the case.

According to Deloitte, data collection and analysis will become the basis of all business models and service offerings by 2030. This means businesses looking to stay ahead of the curve must invest not only in the right technologies but also in equipping their employees with the necessary skills to navigate the complex and highly competitive data-driven business era.

Currently, not many companies are ready to embrace the era of big data and analytics. A Qlik survey found that 24% of business decision-makers feel confident reading, interpreting, and leveraging data. Some of the critical challenges faced by organizations in their quest to leverage data analytics include:

The complexity of synchronizing data across different data sources

The huge volume of data without a well-thought-out data integration and analysis strategy means most data goes unused. Also, not all data sources are high-quality, meaning it’s difficult to tell what works best and what needs to be left behind.

Shortage of data analytics professionals and the high cost of recruiting top talent

Filling top-level talent in data analytics and related fields is a nightmare for several organizations. The war for top talent makes this even more challenging for small and medium-sized businesses that do not have strong financial backing.

Security and Data Privacy Issues

Over the years, cases of data breaches have caused companies to file for bankruptcy following years of litigation and hefty fines. Even worse, DOS attacks targeting big businesses for ransom have hit the headlines year after year. All these trends discourage most organizations from associating their businesses with sensitive data. While this may seem like a good idea, it’s actually one of the many ways of killing your company. Failing to use data means you are losing a ton of opportunities that data and analytics can bring to your business. 

Enough of the challenges; let’s now see what your employees should know about data. In other words, it’s your duty as the employer to prepare and empower your workforce to embrace the opportunities that big data and analytics offer. We’ve discussed five data lessons for your reference.

1. Embrace Open Data Policies  

The idea of open data is that all your employees should access data anytime, anywhere, provided the point of connection is secure and verified. By allowing your employees across departments to access and contribute to specific data sets, you help them make better decisions and even use such information to drive innovations and improve business processes.

Over the years, several organizations have increasingly adopted open data policies in a bid to improve internal communication and create data awareness. Some of the other benefits of using open data policies include:

It creates additional business opportunities

By decentralizing data and information in your business or organization, you allow your employees to develop new products or services based on the market dynamics and trends.

It enhances transparency

Open data makes it easier to monitor company activities and even contributions from each department and individuals, enabling greater transparency. Stakeholders, customers, and investors can also track the business performance, expenditures, goals, etc., from one information source.

Increased Efficiency

Businesses with an open data system can quickly and cost-effectively access insightful information in real-time and from various departments and even the broader market, reducing acquisition, overhead cost, and redundancy. A well-established open data system can also empower employees, stakeholders, and customers to alert the company management for gaps or inaccuracy in the data, helping solve issues that could lead to losses or costly mistakes in the future.

Having an open data system in place, however, isn’t the silver bullet. If you want to use this open data model to boost business operations and drive profitability, you should empower your employees to share valuable information with colleagues freely. This information sharing and peer-to-peer collaboration can promote data literacy and inform the need for business innovation.

2. Approach Your Business Problems with Data

Every company has its own challenges, which can be viewed as untapped opportunities. More often, there’s a way in which you can use data to inform your business decisions. However, unless you know where to collect quality and reliable data, this could be counterproductive.

Take, for example, your sales team has just realized that sales revenue spikes, particularly during the cold seasons, winter, and fall, but suddenly drops during the warmer seasons. By going deep into the sales data, such as the items bought, the cost of each item, etc., you could realize that your store has stocked more winter clothes such as boots and gloves at competitive prices.

Going even further to compare your store products with competitors could open more opportunities for your business. For instance, you could realize what other stores have stocked for summer so you can also offer your customers. Or, by going to your website data and checking what the customers searched or what they abandoned on the shopping cart, you could understand more about the site user experience or even price disparities.

Finding ways to link your business problems with data can give valuable insights that will further improve your business performance and open more opportunities. This way, you can use data to reveal a story that makes sense to your industry and customers. 

3. Leverage Data to Find Insights

According to the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), the volume of information grows exponentially at a rate of 60% every year. Similarly, 62% of employees cannot assess such information and leverage it to make decisions. Most businesses already have access to tons of data, but they lack a clear strategy on how well they can leverage that data to make informed business decisions.

To successfully leverage data in driving critical business processes, you need a workable strategy. Here, data quality is a priority, but it’s not the only recipe for success. Below are the other aspects you should consider:

Digitize dark data

Dark data is the data that’s available but has never been used. According to IBM, 90% of data collected from sensors and Analog-Digital conversations never gets used. Some of this data could be useful but cannot be accessed easily either because they exist in print form or have been placed in the archives. Digitizing valuable dark data could bring fresh insights to help in decision-making.

Know the data to keep and those to discard

Not all the data you have, add value to the business decision-making process. A rule of thumb is to assess the available data to ensure that you keep only what’s either valuable now or in the future.

Consolidate disparate data fields

Aggregating different data types give you access to deeper insights about a particular topic; hence decision-making becomes more accurate and dependable.

Invest in employee training, upskilling, and reskilling

Besides hiring IT talent that’s well-versed in the data analytics field, you want to equip your workforce with competitive data analytics skills as well. By educating your junior employees and management, you can unearth the diamonds in the rough and ensure that your organization is digital-ready from the top downwards. 

Moreover, employees shouldn’t rely only on observation; rather, they should dig deeper for insights and data-driven explanations for their observations.

4. Visual Data Ensures Better Understanding 

It’s no secret that visualized data makes a lot more sense than junk of text or plain sentences. According to HubSpot, the brain interprets visual information better than it processes text. This means that explaining your data using graphs, charts, and design elements will yield better results.

After collecting high-quality data from all the relevant sources, you want to present them in a way that makes the most sense to your employees and other people using it. The reason for using visuals to present your data is to ensure everyone quickly understands the information being conveyed.

There are several ways you can visually present your data to make it more compelling and easy to work with. Some of the options you can use include:

  • Charts 
  • Graphs    
  • Tables 
  • Maps
  • Dashboards
  • Infographics 

Regardless of what you choose, always make sure that the data can be interpreted quickly and conveniently. For instance, interactive graphs displayed on computers or mobile devices can help to easily draw comparisons between variables. You can mix and match any of the above data visualization techniques to find what works best for the kind of data you want to present.

5. Double-Check Every Data Set

While data is beneficial for your business, poor data can cause more harm than good. Not every piece of data you have is accurate or worth using to inform critical business decisions. Some data may be skewed or incorrect due to human or technical errors. Low data quality can hinder business growth in several ways.

First, it hurts productivity since business decisions now rely on inaccurate data. Second, poor quality data can lead to costly mistakes, which could cause a ripple effect throughout the organization. This can sabotage several other processes, causing lots of unwanted expenses. Using poor data also means you’ll be feeding employees, customers and perhaps, stakeholders with wrong information. This can lead to poor relationships, or even worse, it may damage the business reputation.

Besides data inaccuracy, you also want to pay attention to data vulnerability. Data breaches often occur due to negligence and, for lack of a better word, ignorance. Rogue data reside in silos, and it’s up to a competent team to run a few diagnoses before realizing where the problem is. According to HBR, 70% of employees have access to data and information they should not.

The solution to forging a solid data strategy narrows down to playing both “defense” and “offense.” Data offensive is all about supporting your business objectives using every insight you can get from the data you have – i.e., increasing revenue, boost profitability and ensuring customer satisfaction.

On the other hand, data defense focuses on minimizing downside risks – i.e., ensuring compliance with data regulations, using analytics and other technologies such as zero-trust to detect and limit fraud, and building robust systems that can prevent cyber-attacks.

If you have cybersecurity experts within your IT team, you want to make sure that they have all the resources – from technologies, e.g., software to advanced skills necessary to keep your data and the organization safe from digital invaders.

For employees interested in advancing their IT skills – from web development to cybersecurity – you may consider joining a coding Bootcamp. Some employee training programs offer subsidies for specific individuals such as veterans and their immediate family members. One such example is the GI Bill benefits program. You can check out this coding academy to learn more about cybersecurity with GI Bill benefits.  

Now that you know what your employees should focus on to ensure that high-quality data translates to precise and valuable business decisions, below are some of the benefits of utilizing data in every business setup.

Data Maps Your Company’s Performance

With data drawn from your marketing and sales departments, you can quickly tell whether your efforts yield any results. Similarly, you can use this data to do some performance mapping, where you assess the current business performance and use the available insights to set SMART goals.

You can also visualize your business’s financial health and even reset your goals and targets to reflect the changing marketing dynamics, consumer behaviors, and business strategies. A rule of thumb is to make sure you are sourcing your data from accurate sources, and where possible, multiple sources to ensure variety and the option to gauge for accuracy.

Data Improves Your Brand’s Customer Experience

Monitoring customer behaviors, market trends, and sales patterns can tell a lot about what you are doing right and wrong. Documenting this data somewhere and having a team analyze the metrics can help forge a winning customer-centric strategy that will boost your overall business experience.

According to Max Levchin, PayPal Co-Founder, customers’ behavior is a lot more straightforward, now more than ever. “The world is now awash in data, and we can see consumers in a lot clearer ways.”

Forward-looking businesses are now leveraging data insights to find new customers, improve customer retention, track social interaction with their business, capture market trends, predict sales trends, boost the brand experience, etc.

Data Enhances Quicker and Smarter Decision Making 

A lot has been said about data being used to make critical business decisions. However, do you know where you are going to get this data or how you will use it to make better decisions?

Assume that you are in the eCommerce business where people make payments within the website. Basically, you have access to tons of information, from those who just abandoned their shopping cart to those who used the chatbot and complained of poor customer service. All these data are untapped opportunities that can take your business to the next level.

With the data you get from your website, you can group and re-group your customers, see which products are moving fast, and which products get picked but later abandoned on the cart. This way, you can modify your marketing strategy and even change your website design to help drive business success. These are just a few examples of how data can drive decision-making.

Data Allows for accurate measuring of Your Company and Employee Success.

It’s easy to judge your employees based on how they smile and shake hands with colleagues, but those aren’t the critical indicators of productivity. Leveraging customer data such as feedback, complaints, and even in-house surveys can tell you who deserves a promotion and who needs reskilling. In short, data can tell you everything about your employees, from personality to work ethic, without necessarily asking them to confess what they think or feel.

On the same note, you can use this data to monitor company success and overall market performance. For instance, you can save your company from a bad reputation by monitoring social mentions and proactively responding to the issue before it becomes a trending hashtag. 

Data comprises every piece of information you can associate with your customers and employees. How you leverage this data can either break or make your business. As long as you want to stay ahead of the competition, you want to ensure that every data set is valuable and safe to ensure you aren’t inviting bad actors.

With everything we’ve discussed above, what are your thoughts about leveraging data to drive your business or organization’s business decisions?