How To Make Your Data Actionable

How do you create an organization that will act on their data?


Data is a great thing. It can show us why somebody is doing something, where a particular delivery is or even how best to approach a particular problem.

What it also can’t do is make people use this insight in order to improve their decision making processes.

There are numerous reports showing how the use of data analytics is spreading and how people are effectively using it to make key decisions within their organizations, but the reality is that there could be more done with it, some people are simply not using it effectively, if at all.

So why is this? It seems like a no-brainer that if you have a wealth of data, that you would want to use it to help yourself.

However, where most people will see this, for several reasons it is not being utilized effectively and these are the key aspects that you need to concentrate on in order to make your data more actionable.

Create Understanding

Using data is not a simple exercise, it is why data scientists are almost always well paid. If anybody could use complex data sets then we would not have the current well documented skills gap.

However, this is not true for simply using the data you already have to make decisions, it is just a case of understanding what it means and how it could affect you. The people who work outside of a direct data role are, in fact, in the best position for this. As they work within the actual business areas where data will have an impact, it means that they have the knowledge of how the numbers on screen could relate to a real business situation.

The success of this will come down to making sure that people are trained in how to use the data in front of them and how to look at it properly.

Make Time

Giving employees time to use data effectively is going to be one of the key drivers in the success of any data programme.

If somebody is already working at their optimum, adding an extra element to what they need to do will undoubtedly decrease their effectiveness in other areas. This could have a negative effect on both their quality of work but most importantly on their mental approach to data.

Once negative connotations are associated with a particular action, they are hard to change. This means that making the most of their data comes down to giving them the time to do so. This could be through using effective time management or even bringing in one or two new team members to spread the workload to allow people to have time to effectively use the data available to them properly.

Have a Clear Mandate

Having a clear mandate about how each team should be using their data will be key to the success of the overall data programme. Marketing will use a data set in a completely different way to finance, sales will use it in a totally different way to senior management. This means that the mandates given to each department needs to be both clear and individual.

Simply saying ‘here is the data, use it’ is not enough and will never hit the heights that a clear mandate will allow for.

Alongside this, the ROI of data needs to be viewed not as an individual aspect, but incorporated into the entire ROI of a department. This comes from not only looking at the short term returns, but the long term impacts. Data should never be viewed in isolation.

Senior Buy-In

There needs to be a clear message from senior management that ‘this is how we work now’.

If this message is not clear and well communicated, it will be deemed as a short term experiment and there will be diminished drive to achieve the success that it could bring. Even in the assessment stage, it is important not to simply allow people to coast through, but instead to make the most of what has been created for them. This needs to come from the most senior leaders in the company to show that it is truly a company wide change, not simply a small experiment.

Lead By Example

Those who can become actionable from their data are the ones who are likely to have the most success in their roles. It is therefore important to create champions, who are a clear example of what can be achieved through using data in a specific way.

Using these employees as an example will be a fantastic way to spread the idea that adopting data will provide better results for individuals.

Philosophizing about the merits of becoming more actionable with your data is great, but having somebody who can embody this success is going to be key to its overall success. It could come down to the most successful taking the time to show the rest how they are achieving these results, which may ultimately mean that the individual success of that person is slightly blunted, but will create a situation where many data champions are created.


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