Sunday, 20th September 2020

The future is data-driven – but businesses must take the driving seat

By Adam Leslie, European Sales & Marketing Solutions Leader at Dun & Bradstreet UK.

We’ve all heard the adage ‘data is the new oil.’

And, broadly speaking, it’s true. Data is a hugely valuable commodity and has the potential to unlock new possibilities across every industry – from manufacturing right through to healthcare, travel, and finance.

But here’s the problem – oil alone isn’t useful.

Pour crude oil into your car, and you’ll destroy the engine. Before oil can have any practical application, it must first go through a rigorous process of distilment.

And, at the risk of a dubiously extended metaphor, the same is true of data.

As businesses scramble to scrape together all the data they can find, very few are concerned with the health of the information they gather.

Data needs to be properly stored, managed, and unified before it can be of any use. You don’t need lots of data – you need quality data that can drive insights.

So, if I may be so bold, I’d like to amend the famous phrase.

Data is indeed the new oil – but first, it must be refined.

Cultivating a data-driven culture

In order to refine data, businesses need to create an environment where data can flourish. But there’s a problem.

Often, organisations think about data incorrectly.

They frequently think of data as something which can add to a company. A shiny new toy that can be bolted on and will start driving value right away.

I suggest a shift in mindset is needed.

Data shouldn’t merely add to a business. But rather, it should permeate the culture entirely.

That means building the processes, governance, talent, and infrastructure that enables data’s value to flow into every corner of the business – from marketing and legal, to finance and HR.

Let’s ground this in an example of a company that gets it right.

If there’s one sure way to make yourself feel bad, it’s to compare yourself to Amazon™. Nevertheless, there’s no denying that it has nailed the data piece.

Amazon™ is as wide-reaching as it gets. Retailer, cloud provider, streaming service, content creator – the business has, with varying degrees of success, expanded into every category imaginable.

And you can probably guess, the common thread that ties it all together is data.

Which customer service touchpoints have you engaged with? How long has your mouse hovered above add-to-cart? Which verb in an email headline triggers a click-through? Every conceivable metric is gathered, stored, and put to use.

All decisions are made from data. Lightening deals, audience segmentation, carousal order, CTA placement – everything.

Data formulates the foundations. It permeates its entire culture. And while many may feel intimidated in comparison, there’s a lot of value to be gained by replicating its best practices.

Make employee drivers – not passengers

The second piece of the puzzle is ensuring your data is in tip-top condition.

This involves correctly entering, cleaning, and managing data. There are plenty of tools that can help – including our own Customer Data Platform (CDP), which consolidates sales, marketing, and third-party data into one, unified platform.

I could write forever about the nuances of keeping your data healthy. But the thing that unites them all is convincing stakeholders that cleaning data is a good use of their time.

Becoming data-driven is a company-wide effort. Every employee can benefit from its impact. Each of them therefore, has a responsibility to ensure data is properly managed – and so, they need to be convinced of its value.

Here are some tips for making the case:

1)Demonstrate the value of data to each team

One of the biggest struggles is the move from ‘analogue talk’ about the value of data (which is largely this and most articles on the subject), to ‘digital evidence’ of the value of data. Try our online Data Quality ROI calculatorfor a starter and if it clicks your interest then D&B can go into the detailed calculation for each of your departments.

2)Advocate analytics without being patronising

It’s of course important to advocate the importance of data. But doing so incorrectly can annoy people. Instead of saying ‘you must do this’, suggest, ‘have you thought about doing this?’

3)Practice what you preach
Lead the way on your data journey by adhering to best practices. Advertise successes, but also, don’t forget to…

4)Advertise failures

Don’t just use data to find out what the business should be doing, but also what it should not be doing.

5)Don’t run a data dictatorship

No one will embrace data if they resent it. Ensure you’re respectful, inclusive and give people the freedom to discover for themselves how data can help them in their roles.

No one gets data right 100% of the time. But remember, being data-driven is much more than simply hoovering up all the information you can find.

Get the process piece right. Get the buy-in piece right. But more than anything, remember it is quality – not quantity – that will determine your success in the data-driven age.


All company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

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