You wouldn’t grab an umbrella without first looking outside, and you probably don’t stop to fill your car’s gas tank before checking the handy fuel indicator. But when you’re inside the walls of a company, it can be all too comfortable to fall back on gut feelings and the mantra of “we’ve always done it this way.” Sometimes sticking to what you’ve always done as an organization is the right move, but you’ll never be able to know for sure unless there’s a process in place to make sure everyone is always looking out the window to see if it’s raining before you decide to grab the umbrella. This shift doesn’t happen overnight--it comes about as a result of developing a strong data culture.
To understand where you need to go as an organization, you have to first understand where you are, which begins with an assessment. Start by really thinking about these questions individually and perhaps as an organization and rate how well you’re doing on each one.
Asking The Right Questions
Are you more of a digital native or an analog business?
You can probably answer this one easily enough--look at how inseparable the physical side of your business is from the digital one. You’ll know if things seem a little tacked on or if you have a competitive advantage thanks to your digital efforts. Try to get a handle on whether your team starts with an idea and thinks about it in its digital implementation, or if you might just have a big idea but don’t know where to start.
How sustainable is the status quo at your current organization?
Industry growth can change rapidly as more and more market segments find themselves altered in the face of the digital economy’s rapid upswing. Does it feel like your company is adapting to it and finding the appropriate level of growth from leveraging data, or are you stagnating or declining while a more nimble competitor is achieving better results and eating into your market share?
How well do you use data to help you make decisions?
This is the critical question--examine how essential your data is when it’s time for decision making. Are your teams speaking in fact or opinion? Is it being used to shape all components of your business direction, just a few, or none at all? Are you using data to drive design, understand your user cohorts, and get a handle on what your clients are doing?
Are you getting data from the right places?
Your data says a lot about where it comes from. If you’re a print magazine, are you getting readership data through paper surveys or online forms? If you’re in the food industry, do you rely on phone call questionnaires even if your customers are largely trending toward online ordering? The data you’re collecting needs to come from the right places if it is to accurately reflect your customers and give you the specific information you’re looking for.
How diligent is your company at verifying the accuracy of your data, and how up to date is it?
Data is generally only useful when you’ve got enough to tell you what’s going on right now. Outmoded data collection methods or ancient metrics, retention rates, and survey results can’t paint an accurate picture of how you’re doing. Are there people routinely verifying that your data is correct?
Do you have a process for action when the data you receive does not support the outcome you’re hoping for?
Some companies tend to get blinded by the light when they receive various data points but find that only one or two pieces of data support their ideal vision. Data is of no use if you only find the pieces of it that support the conclusion you wish to draw--you need a process when the data you hope for isn’t the data you get.
Do you clearly understand the exact goals and metrics you’re using to measure success?
If everyone isn’t on the same page when it comes to understanding how you’re using your data and how you’ll know if your efforts have succeeded, the amount of effort required when it comes to using best practices with data can seem disproportionate to what you get. Understanding the endgame is critical.
Assessment And Choosing Your Growth Areas
While it’s important to focus on all of these attributes, you’ll have probably identified which ones need the most attention after rating your organization. Since you can’t do it all all at once, pick just a couple of the above that you want to really focus on. Decide what you’d like to see, who you can involve when it comes to making it happen, and what success looks like. It’s not just about improving in a certain area--it’s about demonstrably making strides toward improving your company’s data-driven decision making culture.
Make It Matter, Make It Smart
At Vokal, we build products that work better on your behalf so you can take useful insights to your business. We’re not a feature factory--we participate in the solution.