I hear these words more and more every single week. As markets become more competitive and access to information exponentially grows, organizations of all shapes and sizes are focusing more on data. While companies have always had some data available, advanced technologies today are enabling more effective usage of this information. The market for big data solutions has grown so much that “87% of enterprises believe Big Data analytics will redefine the competitive landscape of their industries within the next three years.” Beyond this, Accenture’s Industrial Internet Insights report found that 73% of companies invest more than 20% of their technology budget on Big Data Analytics.
With all of this new data available and with Big Data expenditures increasing year over year, how are organizations actually using this information? Can individuals understand the data and tie it to organizational actions? Can this data be used to inform the status of strategies?
Unfortunately, most companies struggle with applying the data. While the access to information has increased, the human capital to leverage the insights is still light years behind. At AchieveIt, it’s something we see our clients struggle with daily and there are more than enough studies available to confirm this difficulty.
Recently, MIT Sloan Review interviewed over 2,700 business leaders. Similar to the studies above, it found that 61% of these leaders believe analytics provide competitive advantage and that 77% have access to more data than ever. While the data is important and more accessible, only 40% believe data is available for key business decisions. How could this be? With more information available, shouldn’t this help drive important decisions, strategies, and more?
The answer lies within their #1 barrier: Being able to translate analytics into business actions. The study found that there are not enough individuals able to comprehend and utilize this data. While many organizations can read the data, and some organizations can predict the data, fewer can successfully use the information to improve operations. And the future doesn’t look any brighter. Many predict the technology to continue advancing faster than the human capital, furthering the gap between analytics and actions.
So what now? Should you abandon Big Data solutions? Should you aggressively hire individuals well-versed in data analytics?
Fortunately, the answer doesn’t lie in either of these options. Big Data solutions still provide extremely valuable information and there’s no need to significantly increase your data/analytics team. Instead, focus on these three items:
Key Performance Indicators should be a major part of your strategy but shouldn’t be the end-all be-all. Ideally, your strategy should focus on 4-6 KPIs that span your business. These could be all-encompassing or broken down with a few for each division. To understand how your actions drive metrics, develop strategies and smaller tactics that move the metrics in the intended direction. Whether you call them strategies, projects or a different term is irrelevant. The goal is to develop ideas that move your metrics in the proper direction once completed. The hope is that you will either impact your metric goals or pivot to a more effective strategy that will.
Far too often organizations only look at data in the rear-view mirror. Cross-departmental data collection often takes time and while systems provide more access, it isn’t always timely access. If you are operating months behind the data, it opens your organization to poor decision making. Market conditions or organizational development may have already shifted, negating any adjustments. Or worse, you may be too late. If your system already provides timely information, then great. But if not, find ways to collect information closer from the source, to enable quicker decisions.
While Big Data solutions are improving their collection of qualitative information, many organizations still make decisions on the “What” of their data, without truly knowing the “Why.” While people say “numbers never lie,” in the context of strategy I’ve seen that they sometimes can. When you collect your updates, ask your employees to provide context around these metrics. If you’ve developed a strategy meant to move KPIs in the right direction, it may not happen overnight. Instead of abandoning an initiative too soon due to only metrics, context may enable you to uncover success right around the corner.
At AchieveIt, we’ve developed our software to complement Big Data solutions. We are purpose-built to align data to strategic actions and inform your execution process. We start by giving you the tools and support to structure a successful strategy. We enable real-time access to information and critical context behind your data to marry quantitative and qualitative information. And we combine all of this with intelligent dashboards to give you the Big Data feel.