In our digitized age, businesses have a wealth of data at their fingertips, but many of us aren’t using our data resources to their full potential. Research suggests about two-thirds of available data goes unused by companies each year. That’s 68% of available data wasted.

This data is gold dust. We shouldn’t be flushing it down the plughole. Data is a high-value resource that all businesses should be using to drive smarter decisions every single day. Stop imprisoning your data in neglected databases and start using it to your advantage.

Those companies that promote data-driven culture are ahead of the curve. Data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, according to McKinsey Global Institute. Furthermore, 62% of retailers report that information and analytics are creating a competitive advantage for their organization.

Data isn’t something to be wasted. In this article, we’ll be talking about the benefits of data-driven practice and uncovering some awesome ways to drive smarter decisions in your business or organization using data-driven processes.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO MAKE DATA-DRIVEN DECISIONS?

Making a data-driven decision is making a decision using data and analytics as your guide. For example, if you’re running a contact center, you’ll need to prioritize contact center analytics in your decision-making processes.

In other words, instead of using just your intuition, you use numbers to inform your business decision-making. You may think that x email marketing strategy is best, only to find that data says z is more effective.

Data-driven decision making (DDDM for short) is a method of information-based decision making, with data-first processes keeping data at the heart of every choice. This means constantly analyzing past trends to inform future decisions.

Data has always been used to support business decision making, but since the expansion of internet primacy, data has started to play a key role in everything from market research to customer experience management, product design, financial projection, budgeting, and more.

So, what does a data-driven approach look like? Data-driven decisions are any action made based on data. That could be via user testing to identify problems that need resolving, demographic data analysis to determine business opportunities, or market testing to better understand how a new product is likely to perform in a particular market.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO BASE DECISIONS ON DATA?

Data-driven decision making is important because it allows us to make more objective decisions. And it allows us to make them faster. Instead of ruminating over intuition or hunches, data-driven decision making helps evaluate key performance metrics to make well-grounded decisions in a short space of time.

Not only this, but DDDM gives us the luxury of foresight. By analyzing historic data, it becomes possible to predict (with high levels of accuracy) what might happen in the future. Assumptions made without data can spell disaster for a business, but those based on data allow for precision forecasting and diagnostic modeling. That means better results all round.

THE BENEFITS OF DATA-DRIVEN DECISION MAKING

DDDM offers tremendous benefits for all businesses and organizations. The first and foremost advantage is the reduced risk of poor decision making. While data doesn’t eradicate risk, it does go a tremendous way to mitigating any truly horrendous business decisions.

Instead of hoping a new strategy will work, data can give us the confidence to know our new strategy has a high chance of being successful. As we start to use data in our decision-making more comprehensively, we begin to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Data isn’t only about risk aversion. Let’s take a look at some more DDDM advantages.

Transparency & accountability

When decisions are based on objective data sources, businesses enjoy a greater level of transparency and accountability. Decisions backed up by data are more likely to gain the approval of team members and help maintain high levels of compliance. Furthermore, it becomes easier to hold organizations accountable for their data management.

Sustained improvement

Data-driven decision making fuels continuous improvement. When past outcomes can be viewed in numeric terms, it’s easier to implement effective changes based on those past outcomes, contributing to sustained and improved performance outcomes and efficiency. If you want to support workplace efficiency even more, there are plenty of apps for productivity.

Speeds up decision making

Using data saves time spent making decisions. Precision insights promote objective solutions and highly accurate predictions. When decisions are based on facts rather than opinions, the deliberation and uncertainty that usually surround decision-making dissipate. Plus, having the ability to track and monitor new strategies using data makes experimentation less risky.

Informs market research

Data is a fantastic companion to market research. It helps generate, process, and translate feedback into new products, strategies, campaigns, and initiatives. Instead of guessing what your customers like and dislike, customer data platforms tell you what your customers want, helping businesses improve their customer experiences.

Promotes consistency

When everybody in an organization knows how decisions are made, and everybody in an organization is making decisions in the same way (that being a data-led way), organizational consistency is the result. When small changes can be tracked with precision data, it becomes possible to maintain consistent levels of service and engagement.

Saves money

Last but not least, data can save you money. How? It improves operational efficiency and identifies the best places to cut down on spending. In other words, using a data-led approach can help us make smarter and more cost-effective decisions.

USE A DDDM APPROACH FOR THESE BUSINESS OPERATIONS

Data can be used across every business process, but there are some places where it’s particularly useful. If you’re new to data-driven decision making, starting with these four operations will get you off on the right foot.

  1. Finance. Use data to find cost-effective alternatives to everyday processes.
  2. Growth. Identify what’s driving growth and what isn’t. How might you improve?
  3. Marketing. Find out which marketing channels drive conversion rate and ROI increases.
  4. Customer service. Use data to improve response times and service costs.

By starting with these four essential processes, we can become more data-driven every day. But what’s the key to adopting a more data-driven approach?

There are many things we can do as individuals and organizations to embrace the data-led culture. First off, start looking for patterns wherever you can. Make a conscious effort to think analytically. Seek out trends, performance patterns, and get familiar with your key KPIs.

Make sure every decision you make as an individual or part of a team can be traced back to data, and hold your colleagues accountable as well. Don’t be tempted to rely solely on intuition or ‘gut instinct’. While it’s great to be proactive in your business decision-making, it’s important to back up any ideas with the relevant data.

Remember that using data might feel daunting at first. This is completely normal, especially if you’re not used to working with numbers and patterns. Data visualization is a way of deriving meaning from the numbers. Instead of presenting your team with long lists of data, it’s much more effective to spend time collecting your data into an easy-to-digest Google Sheets Gantt chart or graph.

If you think your team could still do with more support, why not engage in some continuing education programs? Consider organizing an in-office training initiative or encouraging employees to educate themselves via an online course or webinar.

TOP TIPS FOR DRIVING SMARTER DECISIONS WITH A DATA-DRIVEN PROCESS

So, you’ve decided it’s time to become a data-driven company. That’s the first step. But how should your business go about this? Below, you’ll find some actionable steps that will help you implement smarter decisions every day by establishing a truly data-driven process.

Make your data accessible

First thing’s first, ensure company data is accessible. If the data you need to make an important decision is difficult to access, it’s hardly going to speed up the decision-making process, is it? Ensure the right members of your team have access to the data they need.

Avoid granting data access to just one department if it’s relevant to everyone. In reality, anybody involved in customer interaction in any way should have access to some data, whether that be regarding sales, customer experiences, financials, or something else entirely.

Make your data attractive

Next on the agenda is to ensure your data is appealing. Not everybody in your company is going to be a trained data analyst or a die-hard numbers nerd. The majority of employees won’t be. That means data needs to be presented in an accessible manner.

That could mean providing training to help people get started using data in their day-to-day activities or mobilizing tools that present data in a more digestible manner. Most people prefer looking at pleasing charts than pages and pages of numbers. This aids data visualization.

Target data for your business

Be aware of what you want your data to achieve. What purpose does it serve? With so much data available to us, it’s important to focus on what’s important. There’s no hard and fast rule. The metrics that matter to you will depend on your business framework and goals.

Home in on the types of decisions you typically need to make and pick out some relevant key performance metrics that will help you make those decisions more easily. Examples of key metrics you might want to consider include:

  • Qualified leads
  • Conversion rates
  • Bounce rates
  • Average time on site
  • Social engagement
  • Revenue
  • Sales funnels
  • Issues logged and resolved
  • Call wait times
  • Escalation requests
  • Management metrics
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Return-on-investment (ROI)
  • Project cost and valuation

Prioritize data agility

Data agility means being able to access the data you need when you need it. In other words, to achieve fast and agile decision making, you’re going to want fast and agile data to match. That way you’ll be able to spot problems before they cause too much disruption and emerging trends before anyone else.

To achieve agility, it’s important to foster a culture of collaboration between teams. Data silos won’t benefit anyone. Sharing data openly (where appropriate and compliant) is the best way to make better, more informed business decisions. So, make sure you’ve got an effective marketing team structure and sales team structure where data is continuous and flowing.

Make data-driven goals

With so much data out there, it’s important not to approach a data-driven approach with all guns blazing. You’ll soon find yourself overwhelmed and confused. Instead, sit down with the relevant teams and departments to create a list of data-driven goals to focus on. From there, you can integrate the appropriate data sources to improve and inform your decision-making.

Use appropriate tools

Using the right tools will help you get the most out of your data. We’re not expecting you to spend 24 hours a day sitting at your desk number crunching. With the right tools, you’ll be able to analyze and present your data in an easy-to-understand and digestible manner.

Many of today’s data quality software and KPI software will create intuitive charts, graphs, and resources. When important metrics are displayed clearly, you’ll be able to see what’s going well and where improvements are needed at the click of a button.

Update data stacks regularly

Don’t let your data stacks sit around going stale. Data has to be updated regularly to remain relevant and useful. Remember, we’re tracking things like customer habits, performance, and spending.

These are all metrics that fluctuate significantly with each passing day. By keeping your data stack updated, you’ll ensure your decision-making is always based on the most contemporary and up-to-date metrics available.

Hire experts if needed

Last but not least, nobody is expecting you to be an expert, but if you need the help of one, what’s to stop you from getting it? If you have the budget to hire a data expert, then do. They will be able to optimize your data usage and help you construct a robust and sustainable data strategy for your business.

A professional analyst can help you identify your most important KPIs and set up intuitive data modeling systems that will keep serving you long into the future. These days most of us have access to some of the best online meeting platforms, so there’s no excuse. If you can’t speak to an expert in person, meet them online.

START DRIVING SMARTER DECISIONS WITH DATA-DRIVEN PROCESSES

With so much data accrued every day, we must make the most of it if we want to compete in our increasingly data-driven world. When we make decisions based on data, we can make smarter, more efficient choices with confidence.

If you’re new to this way of working, start by identifying your key performance criteria, and home in on metrics that can help inform robust and reliable decision-making moving forward.

Author’s bio:

John Allen from RingCentral US is the “Billion Dollar SEO,” known for effectively scaling enterprise SEO teams. With over 14 years of experience and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs he currently directs all SEO activity for RingCentral, a global UCaaS, VoIP, and contact center software provider, globally. He has written for websites such as Hubspot and Toolbox. Here is his LinkedIn.

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