‘Big data’ is one of the key buzzwords of our time. It’s a very sexy term that has captured our imagination. But simply having access to lots of data isn’t going to make an organisation more competitive, nimble and innovative. It’s what you do with the data that really matters. If you take the right steps, access to big data and analytics can put a business in solid stead for creating added value in its specific circumstances, at any moment.
With this in mind, we really need a better way to describe the ability to generate lots of information about what’s happening inside an enterprise and then act on this data, which was one of the central themes at the Nielsen Consumer 360 event, held recently in San Antonio, Texas.
This was an opportunity for some of the USA’s top businesses including Walmart and Google to come together to explore what’s best practice when it comes to learning from the massive amounts of data these giant enterprises have at their fingertips.
At the event, Tara Walpert Levy, managing director of Global Ads Marketing Development at Google, suggested we should be using the expression ‘better data’ rather than big data. The phrase better data certainly has merit. But I prefer the term ‘smart data’ because it has so many wonderful connotations. Smart implies intelligence but the word can also be used as a synonym for elegance, lively and energetic.
So what exactly is smart data and how can you use it to improve the way your business runs? On its own, data isn’t valuable. It’s the timeliness of that data and how it’s used that really matters.
Organisations that are smart about the way they use data:
- Start analysing information as soon as it becomes available.
- Use an intuitive business management solution that wades through the mountains of data points and, in an automated fashion, pinpoints and delivers to staff the specific information they need to perform smarter and help them realise their strategic goals, and more.
- Have senior executives that understand the importance of learning from the data available to the business and are able to draw insights from the available facts.
- Share what they learn from this material with people at all levels of the business – from C-level to street level - rather than corral it for senior business decisions makers only.
- Give staff immediate access to the data points that help make their job easier.
- Ensure the way the business collects and stores data complies with privacy regulations.
- So what’s the best way to develop a smart data strategy for your business?
Here’s what the process looks like:
Investment and insight
Invest in technology that allows you to collect information at every level, and from within every department of the business. The data that’s collected will differ for every business, depending on what it does and its existing level of digital maturity.
But typically, businesses will need to collect information from customers, from the sales team or retail staff, from within the finance department and through the different points of the supply chain, as well as from other business units, depending on the nature of the enterprise.
Work out which data points deliver the most critical insights for the business. This could be information about customer satisfaction, it could reveal where disruptions are occurring in the supply chain, it could be sales figures or information about late payers. Again, this will depend on the organisation’s unique circumstances.
Empower everyone in the business to be able to access the information that lets them perform their job to the best of their abilities, run their teams better or manage procurement more effectively. Giving everyone access to everything is not what this is about: it’s about giving the different roles in the business the information that is important to them, and enables them to do their job better and smarter.
Sales staff won’t benefit from information about accounts receivable, and similarly finance staff don’t require customer satisfaction data. It’s about putting the right information in the right hands.
Culture and action
Set up a culture so that people not only have access to the information they need, they also use it. It’s not enough to lead your horses to water so to speak - you also need to empower them to take a deep, long drink.
Act on the insights. Once you have the right knowledge to drive your business further at your fingertips, make sure you use it. Build processes in the business to tweak products, re-think strategy and create bigger, bolder visions.
The result? A switched on business that’s powered by easily digestable and accessible insights about what’s happening in the enterprise, as it happens. It’s one of the best ways to ensure everyone at every level is making the right decisions at the right times, and plays a more active role in the businesses success, growth and innovative thinking.
Moreover, it means you’ll stand head and shoulders above others in your field that are not taking the right steps to truly make the most of their data.
David Jackman is the managing director, Pronto Software