Make the Leap – It’s Time to Lead with Data (Part 1 of 5)

I find it fascinating that I can stand in line to order lunch, and pull up a real time analysis of my financials using  Next, I can swipe left to view upcoming meetings, and can forward an email notification to a co-worker as it arrives.  Convenience in our everyday lives has never been more abundant, and the expectation for real time data is second nature.  Why then, in a business setting, are companies not able to keep up?  Wouldn’t it be amazing to have the same convenience and access to your data at work?  Imagine the types of business decisions that could be data driven, if only the convenience and mechanism existed for you to do so!

As a member of West Monroe’s Advanced Analytics team my email box is flooded daily with advertisements of new technology that can solve everything – real time data, mobile reporting, predictive analytics, big data, and the list goes on.  Ironically, most often the greatest barrier to an organization’s data revolution is not technology but process, discipline, and a strategy for how to use data.  Sure, a fantastic tool will make things easier when you’re ready to put reports into people’s hands on the train home, but there is a lot of work that must be done before you’re ready for this step.

Let me paint you a picture starting  at the beginning – you may have a reporting environment, but the data is only refreshed every night.  In addition, adding any new fields will take several weeks and not all of your data sources are contained in the same place.  Many reports require manipulation within Excel, and these spreadsheets are then emailed around the company until they land on the desk of a decision maker.  Here is where things get hairy.  The decision maker has two choices: trust the data in the heavily manipulated report, or go with their gut and make a potentially devastating decision.

If any of this story sounds familiar, you are not alone.  In the age of data overload, I would implore you to ask, “Why is it so hard to use my data to enable and drive key business decisions?”  Luckily, there is a path forward, and it involves making a leap and an organizational paradigm shift to lead with data.  What does that mean?  Leading with data means that strategic direction, acquisition analysis, hiring, operations, etc. are all enabled and supported with data.  If data is time sensitive, it should be delivered promptly (even real time).  Embarking on a journey to make this a reality sounds expensive and complicated, and it might be.  But I can ensure you – it will be worth it.

The benefits of a data driven organization include predicting your customers next move in order to stay ahead of competition.  Data driven organizations also understand key factors in driving hiring and retention of high achieving employees.  Companies that are ahead of the data game are known for innovating, and can quantify their successes and failures in a timely fashion.  In short, organizations empowered with data are leaders a competitive landscape.  At West Monroe Partners, we have found that there are four key steps to follow when transforming into a data driven organization, and these will each be profiled in detail in this upcoming blog series:

Step 1:  Figure out what your data is worth – just like any asset that you want to invest in, your data has a value to your organization.  What is it?

Step 2:  Pave the path – determine what business decisions should be data driven, and create a strategy and team to enable this vision.

Step 3:  Make the leap – invest in your data, and begin reaping the rewards of this decision.

Step 4:  Stay the course – like any transformation, the road can be demanding, but it is worth it.  Utilize change management best practices, and empower your team.


The next blog in this series will highlight Step #1 – Figure Out What your Data is Worth.

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