5 ways your data can add to the quality and growth of your business

by Helen Tanner, Founder of DATA3

Data-driven organisations make & save more money…

It’s been proven, time and again, that data-driven businesses make & save more money. Check out these facts from global studies including McKinsey, Harvard Business Review, BARC & Forrester – data-driven businesses are…

  • 19 times more likely to achieve a greater profit
  • 23 times more likely to acquire more customers
  • 8% more profitable
  • 5% more productive
  • Growing at an average of 30% each year

Global organisations are using data to enable them to…

  • Make more money – this is achieved through using data to improve sales results, increase conversion rates or create brand new revenue streams through monetising data with the creation of new products and services
  • Save money – this is achieved through automating manual processes to free up resources or identifying cost leakage points so they can be plugged
  • Improve customer service – this can be achieved through using data to deliver quicker, personalised and more relevant services and communications to customers
  • Create new sources of competitive advantage powered by innovation – this can be achieved by extracting more value from your data using the latest technology including AI, machine learning and large language models like ChatGPT

But, in a world where we’re all busy…data projects need to be progressed to the top of the list.

Why is data important?

I spoke to Joseph Spadaford, who specialises in operational excellence and he told me…

“This seems like an obvious question. As practitioners we understand that without reliable and repeatable measurement of performance, we cannot effectively apply DMAIC thinking to improve processes in a disciplined and scientific way. The availability of the right data allows us to enhance our decision making and problem-solving skills beyond the less reliable “judgement call” – and puts us on firmer ground. In a Six Sigma project without data, we would not be able to frame a problem properly or perform statistical analysis of data points to better understand the nature of performance variation or test a set of different assumptions about solution alternatives that would be the best in a particular situation.”

So, for our work, the need for the right data is central to our ability to drive process improvement. Without measurable data, we are basically flying blind and throwing possible changes against the wall— “to see what sticks.” Not an approach compatible with operational excellence.

Yet the value of data is much more pervasive than many of us consciously realise. We all need data—in most aspects of our lives.  On a personal level, if we are in the hospital for treatment, the nurses take “our vitals” multiple times to detect trends and prompt actions to reduce our health risks. Pilots use an array of instrument measures to ensure the aircraft has the proper speed, lift, and altitude to have a safe takeoff or landing. Athletes need to track their performance data over time to attain their conditioning goals and success in sports. Companies track market share and sales growth to determine if their execution is consistent with their growth plans.

All of this seems obvious. But what is often missed is the potential to make data more readily available and accessible to the full organisation—in a way that is easy to digest and use for the benefit of everyone. At the “rank and file” levels in a company, employees are hungry for information on their own performance that is readily available to them, and they would also like to know how the company is doing on an ongoing basis. At the executive level, management must know they are achieving their strategic objectives and would like data across a broad range of activities covering sales, marketing, operations, human resources, market share, etc. This interest in data is a powerful force—and if we address that need the right way, we can dramatically increase effectiveness throughout the organisation.

There are many issues that exist in making information/data broadly available—even if it would be well received by the intended audience. The obvious ones are confidentiality concerns or legal/regulatory constraints, the absence of objective measures in some areas, the amount of “noise” in the data, and sometimes the sheer volume of data is overwhelming. Sorting through these real challenges and gradually sharing more and more meaningful information is the key to success—and then “continuously improving” both the measures and their availability is the opportunity for almost any company.

Fortunately, there are now tools and techniques that allow this to happen more easily, no matter how large or small the company may be. Capturing data and making it conveniently available to stakeholders opens new possibilities for all businesses and is worth the effort. It may ultimately be a competitive advantage.

How can a business use data to enhance performance?

Global organisations can use data in a variety of ways to enhance their business performance and to improve the quality and growth of their organisation. Let’s explore five real life examples…

  1. You can save time/resources through the automation of manual tasks – clients we’ve worked with have saved 100+ person-days every month by automating work that was previously done in spreadsheets by people. This has freed these people to do higher value work. And it has removed the need to recruit as many people as expected as the organisation has grown, ultimately saving the business money, and enabling them to scale much more effectively and efficiently. Read about our experiences with St Modwen, the commercial property developer.
  2. You can enable leaders to make quicker, data-informed decisions by giving them access to the right data at the right time in the right place. Global organisations have improved their business by using data to drive process improvements and operational excellence. Read about our experiences with Ground Control, the telecommunications technology provider.
  3. You can centralise data and democratise data so that people can easily access and trust the data that they need to do their roles. Global organisations have a clear view of their data landscape, refined their data & digital transformation journey, improved data governance and data quality activities & now find it easy to comply with regulatory requirements. Read about our experiences with Soil Association, the organic certification charity.
  4. You can create new sources of competitive advantage by innovating using data, harnessing the latest technology, and creating new insight. Global organisations are using AI and machine learning tools to identify hidden patterns and trends, as well as using large language models like ChatGPT and Generative AI tools to use natural language to create new ways to interact with data. Read about our experiences with Speed, the creative agency.
  5. You can create new revenue streams by monetising your data. Global companies are generating more revenue using data by creating new client products and services, such as analytics portals, benchmarks, forecasts, indices and much more. Read about our experiences with Rethink Productivity, the time & motion experts.

How do you get started?

I’ve worked with many organisations on their data challenges and their data opportunities – some big, some small, some global, some local, some private sector, some public sector, some selling to consumers, some selling to businesses, and across all different industries. Every type of organisation! In each case, the following four-step approach to data proves to be pragmatic and drives the right behaviours and gets organisations the results they’re looking for.

  • DISCOVERY – begin by doing an audit of what you have today. This will ensure that you have a clear picture of your starting position. Create a map of the data sources that your organisation is using – from finance tools to customer relationship management systems, to operational databases, to sales tools, to marketing software, and don’t forget to think about the spreadsheets you have in place. Overlay this with the technology you have in place today – this could be cloud solutions or on premise technology, it probably will include a range of software and coding tools. And overlay both with a list of the things that data is being used for – from dashboards to reports to trackers and undoubtedly lots of spreadsheets!

Alongside this audit, capture the data requirements from each area of your organisation – from your Board and leadership team to the finance department, sales team, marketing team, operations department, people team and the rest. Ensure you understand what they need from data today and what they’ll need as your organisation evolves over the next 5 years.

  • DESIGN – create a data strategy that’s right for your organisation. Think about your current level of data maturity versus where you’d like to be in the future. Balance the needs you have today with anticipating future needs and where your organisation is likely to be in five years’ time. Choose a technology stack that is robust, secure, future-proofed, scalable, and flexible. Select systems, tools and data solutions that are well-funded with investments in development. Select partners who work to fully understand your specific business needs and ensure that they design solutions that are right for you. Make decisions on whether you’ll deliver your solutions in-house versus outsourcing, and whether you’ll buy rather than build, when it comes to technology. Make all the big decisions that are right for your organisation.
  • BUILD – create a data plan where you deliver value quickly and incrementally by building in phases. This way you’ll start to realise the benefits right away. We’ve all experienced those painful multi-year projects where the solution never seems to be delivered! Avoid that and build a roadmap with monthly releases of new data solutions in priority order.
  • ITERATE – of course, version 1 is just the start…keep building, keep adding data, keep developing solutions, keep listening to feedback, keep reviewing the technology landscape, keep iterating and keep improving.

This four-step process is simple, can be scaled up & down depending on your organisation, and will ensure that you focus on what matters.

Why is today the best time to get started? 

Solving the data challenges in your firm is entirely within your control. If you want to be more in touch with how your business is delivering value, while ensuring there is organisational alignment around strategic objectives, then it’s time to dig into how data is being used to guide your journey. Even the initial steps can begin delivering value and capturing clear benefits to propel you forward.

Your business is only getting bigger and more complex…and your data is only getting bigger and more complex…so today will be the easiest it will ever be to resolve your data challenges and derive maximum value from being more data driven in your business.  

So, why wait?

Contact me if you need any help…

Contact hello@data-cubed.co.uk & visit the DATA3 website