If your business is like most organizations then you are constantly accumulating data. Sales figures, performance, customer data, operations and so much more: if it's happening it's either being measured, or it should be.

But it's also likely that much of that data isn't being properly put to use.

A 2020 survey of 1500 global enterprise leaders across Asia-Pacific, Europe, the US and China conducted by the technology company Seagate found that 68% of data available to the enterprise is simply unused. Other reports, such as this 2016 analysis by Forrester put the amount of data not being analysed as high as 73%.

Data analytics is no longer just a nice to have: it's an essential foundation of any successful business. And failing to take advantage of your data can cost you, big time. To give just one example, a few years ago the equipment giant Caterpillar estimated that its dealers were missing out on somewhere between US$9 and US$18 billion in revenue every year by not taking advantage of the telematics technology built into the machines they sell.

To put it bluntly, if you aren't taking full advantage of all the data available to you, it's costing you money, either through the opportunity cost of potential sales you are missing out on, or the costs incurred unnecessarily through missed opportunities to improve efficiency.

So what can you do to build a culture of data in your organisation? In this article, we take a look at some of the key challenges you may face, and the steps you can start to implement today.

Key Data Challenges (and what to do about them)

So what are the key data challenges that companies face?

Whenever we talk to customers about data, there are some common themes that come up time and again:

  • Team members want to use data, but don't have access to the information they need when they need it. Sometimes the data simply isn't available, in other cases they need to request specific reports from the IT or data science team, which takes time.
  • Data collection is time-consuming and often driven by highly manual processes. By the time the ultimate reports are available, the information is stale, impacting the organisation's ability to make strategic business decisions based on data.
  • Data isn't updated by the team in a timely manner because team members are focussed on their day-to-day activities, and don't want to spend time entering data.
  • The sheer volume of data being generated and collected by the organisation makes it hard for team members to know where to start analysing data.
  • It takes too long to aggregate and analyse data.

The key to overcoming these challenges is partly cultural, and partly driven by having the right tools in place.

The Data-Driven Culture

The cultural challenge begins at the top, and everyone from senior management down throughout the organisation needs to be on board with the idea of using data to drive decision making rather than gut feel or intuition.

It is equally important to move away from the idea that data is something that belongs to a subset of people in the organisation (something that it is the exclusive domain of data scientists and other highly technical employees) and instead ensure that the data-first mindset is embedded into every aspect of the organisation, with the right data accessible to everyone.

If you are struggling with the cultural aspect then one approach to addressing that is to pick a business problem (large or small) and try to solve it with data: if you can demonstrate concrete results of an improved process or a cost saving to the rest of the organisation then this can go a long way to selling the benefits of the data approach.

Get the Right Tools in Place

The other key pillar underpinning a data-driven culture is having the tools in place to ensure that everyone can have access to the right data at the right time.

That's where solutions like MotionBoard, our advanced business intelligence dashboard, and Dr Sum, our high-performance data warehouse platform can help.

Our customers use these tools to open up data across their business, and give team members access to flexible dashboards where they can query and analyse real-time or near real-time data. Often, simply making something like performance data widely available across the company can be a powerful motivator, encouraging competition between teams and driving increased sales, efficiency, or cost savings.

Another key strength of tools like MotionBoard is that they can be used to streamline data collection as well as data aggregation. While large amounts of business data can be collected automatically, some will inevitably be input manually. MotionBoard allows users to input data back to the single source of truth direct from the dashboard. Many of our customers were faced with the situation where prior to implementing MotionBoard sales staff were simply not updating their reports as they were more focussed on day to day sales. Making the report data available to everyone through the dashboards while also providing a streamlined process for entering data helps to naturally promote data input amongst the sales team because everyone can see how the data is helpful and how it is used.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in building a data-driven culture? Let us know in the comments below.

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Matt Armstrong

View posts by Matt Armstrong
With over two decades' experience in the technology industry, Matt is WingArc Australia's manager of marketing and communications.
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