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Making Data-Backed Decisions

It used to be that the best people in business seemed to have a gut instinct about the perfect deal. It was like magic, leaving all of us to wonder how we could sprinkle the same fairy dust on our own projects to be similarly successful.

Fast forward a couple decades, and gut instincts are being replaced by hard data. Rather than the voice of reason, many hard-hitters in the digital economy are listening to the voice of numbers—and for good reason. Data helps improve customer engagement, which is the biggest driver of success in today’s economy. Companies like Amazon and Netflix have used big data to master personalization, while others like Uber have used it to master being available—albeit not yet profitable—for its customers.

With 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created every day, data in itself is not a magic bullet. Instead, it offers insights, which in turn allows smart executives to make better, more-informed decisions. If used well, data can help you understand both where you’ve been, and where you need to go, whether inside your company or outside of it. If you haven’t yet embraced the possibilities of big data, the following are a few tips for harnessing those insights in the most efficient, effective ways.

Create a Team

No man is an island, especially in the ocean of data being generated around the world every single day. And chances are good your data is currently located in a multitude of places, including clouds, apps, SaaS systems, and your own data center. To help you make the most it, hire a team of specialists solely dedicated to gathering, interpreting, and strategizing based on the data you are able to mine. The best analysts can also help you visualize the data to make it easier for other members of your executive team—and your entire company!—to understand. It doesn’t matter what you call this team—data geniuses, information specialists, analytics genies, etc. What’s more important is that they understand how to find patterns, relationships, and insights that will help you move toward both short- and long-term goals.

Start Backwards

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the vast amounts of information available from your customers and employees. Rather than starting with what you have, start with what you want to know. From there, your team can help you determine which numbers will give you the insights you need to make a real impact. This will help keep your data-gathering to a manageable level, and help you create clear wins that will make the value of big data even more obvious to your Board or executive management.

Embrace it from the Top

If data makes you uncomfortable, your company will feel it. Big data needs to be embraced by the top town. What’s more, it needs to be screamed from the rooftops. When you make decisions for your team, let them know how big data led you to make that choice, and why you think it’s the right one. Doing so will help them get on board with data-backed decision-making, and encourage the adoption of data across the board.

Make It Part of Your Strategy

Silos never work, but a siloed data team will be the most ineffective team of all. Data can only help you if you let it! Be sure to integrate your data analysts into all phases of product or service development so they can guide your team’s decisions from the very start.

Invest More

Actually, let’s change that to, “Invest smarter.” Sometimes more data can lead to data fatigue and overwhelm. Instead of investing in more data, invest in smarter teams and better data. Those are the things that will actually allow you to gain a competitive advantage in today’s market.

Create a Data Culture

Lastly, it should go without saying that the culture of your business will either make or break your move to data adoption. Work to create a culture that embraces the insights big data can bring, while holding on to good old-fashioned common sense and creativity. If you do, you’ll create more than a competitive advantage. You’ll create a company poised for smart growth and change.

Big data, like so many other developments in today’s digital landscape, is here to help you. When you use it well, it will lead you to places you never even imagined—places your gut never even knew existed.

Additional Resources on This Topic:
Are Managers Utilizing the Information Big Data is Providing?
Enough with Your Gut: Time for Data-driven Leadership
Every Business has Access to the Data They Need—But Do They Use It?

This post was brought to you by IBM Global Technology Services. For more content like this, visit IT Biz Advisor.

Photo Credit: jranhofer Flickr via Compfight cc

Daniel Newman

After 12 years of running technology companies including a CEO appointment at the age of 28, I traded the corner office for a chance to drive the discussion on how the digital economy is going to forever change how business is done. I'm an MBA, adjunct business professor and 5x author of best-selling business books including "The Millennial CEO" and "The New Rules of Customer Engagement." Pianist, soccer fan, husband and father, not in that order. Oh and for work...I'm the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group and President of V3 Broadsuite, a family of marketing and media agencies that help companies be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world. I also give keynote speeches around the world on the topics such as digital transformation, technology and marketing.