Data this, data that… with so much conversation surrounding the importance of data in modern business, it’s easy to become numb to the topic. But the reason that Big Data is so pervasive in conversation is that it’s the key to being successful in 2017 and beyond.
While you may have been able to squeak by without prioritizing data in the past, it’s virtually impossible to do so now. You need to become a data-driven organization in order to thrive and grow.
According to Ruhollah Farchtchi, a data-driven organization is a company that understands three important concepts:
Using data to make decisions is the end goal.
Self-service access to data is critical to achieving that.
Data freshness is as important as data volume.
However, understanding these three things and actually doing what’s necessary to become a data-driven organization are two separate things.
Here are some steps you can take to move in the right direction.
1. Ensure Access to Trustworthy Data
In fine woodworking, there are dozens — sometimes hundreds — of steps that have to be taken in order to go from a block of wood to a piece of art. And while each step is important, there’s one that matters more than the rest: squaring up the wood.
Before you can get started, you have to make sure each piece of wood you’re using is perfectly square. Otherwise, these slight imperfections will be magnified in later steps and compromise the end result.
In a data-driven company, the same is true. Before you worry about anything else, you have to make sure your data is trustworthy. If it’s not, then everything you do will be negatively affected. As the old principle says, “garbage in, garbage out.”
2. Set Clear Goals and Objectives
Mindlessly collecting and grouping data is a waste of time. You won’t ever accomplish anything. In order to become a data-driven organization, you have to set clear goals and objectives from the very start.
By setting goals, you can assess the performance of your data collection and analysis methods. You’ll be able to tell where things are going well and where things are royally screwed up. In the end, this will feed better results throughout the organization.
3. Start Small
Have you ever been a part of an organization that tried to invest in data, but ultimately got frustrated and threw in the towel? This is fairly common and is almost always tied to the issue of scaling too quickly.
One of the keys to being successful is to start small and aim for incremental progress. This prevents things from becoming too overwhelming and also allows you to see some results, which encourages you to continue moving forward.
4. Involve Everyone
Study the most successful organizations in the world and you’ll notice two things. Not only do they have advanced data-driven strategies, but these strategies permeate the entire organization.
A data-driven organization is led from the top, but you need to make sure everyone in the company is involved in some form or fashion. Data has to become part of the culture — not just an isolated objective.
5. Prioritize Data Security
If you’re going to collect data, you have a responsibility to protect this data from cyber criminals. In an age where ransomware attacks are unfortunately becoming quite common, you can’t afford to put your organization in a compromising situation. There are lots of different steps you can take, but staying up to date is one of the more important defense mechanisms you can deploy.
“Owners should make sure that the security on all the software in their systems is up to date. That means downloading an operating system and application updates when they become available,” Joyce Rosenberg writes for ABC News. “Companies should also invest in antivirus software and programs that detect and disable invasive software known as malware — and make sure these programs are up to date too. Owners should consider email security services that look for suspicious emails and stop them from entering inboxes.”
Building on step four, you need to educate everyone in the organization on the need for security. There are too many loopholes for you to close on your own. Participation from all employees is the only way to maximize security.
How Far Along Are You?
When you pause to consider the current state of your organization, how far along are you? Are you faking your way into making people think you’re a data-driven organization? Or are you actually taking practical steps towards maximizing the value of data as it pertains to growing your company?
It’s time to be honest with yourself and nudge your organization in the appropriate direction.