We asked six experts from different fields to weigh in on turning Data into Value using Analytics.
You’ve probably heard the popular term “business intelligence” get thrown around at will in the board meetings or conference calls of the C-suite of various industries?
At its core, collecting business intelligence is the technology-driven process of data mining, processing, and analyzing with the goal of delivering actionable findings for better decision-making. The results of business intelligence are valuable insights about current business processes as well as possible new paths and forecasts about an organization or an entire industry. The end goal of BI is always to deliver an actionable business insight.
This month, we asked decision-makers and project managers from the fields of e-commerce, software vending and consulting to share their thoughts on turning data into value and tell us how they use data and analytics to make better decisions.
Despite their different backgrounds and professional experience across industries and positions, they all agree on this: intelligent use of data analysis is the key to extracting its value.
Transform your Insights Into Strategic Value-Driven Action
“It goes without saying that nowadays, data is a crucial and inseparable part of virtually any business.”
As much as it is crucial and inseparable, the value of data lies in the use of it. Even if you discover the most incredible insights in your data, it won’t matter unless you turn these into actionable work items that your team has the capacity to undertake.
“While organizations are constantly collecting all sorts of data, it should not be simply regarded as record keeping. Turning data into actionable analytics can come from combining unlikely data sources to produce significant value. These analytics will help organizations obtain substantial insights of their business, optimize their operations and fine tune their strategies, or even re-shape their business to stay competent in the market.
Being able to quickly identify anomaly situations, react immediately to production issues, and effectively locate where most of the waste is happening along the value chain, drives better operational processes and can impact the bottom line.”–Ben Tai, Founder and CEO – DrivenBI
Think Small to Go Big
Seeking the latest and greatest of business intelligence, we might be led to believe the only answer is big data. The truth is, however, you do not need big data to get great business insights from your productivity stats. Start from the ground up.
“We often think of “big data” when it comes to analyzing our businesses. We don’t need big data to do what I might call zeroth-level analysis. We can use the data we have from our projects, the small data. Small data provides more than project insights—it can provide business insights.
For example, we can measure cycle time for features (deliverables) in our projects. When we measure cycle time, we can see how large or small the feature is. We can see if we need people outside our team to finish that work. We can see if our throughput is what we expected, shorter or longer, especially if we measure over a time period.
When we measure cycle time, we get feedback on the size of our deliverables and if we have any bottlenecks. Since our customers buy features, we can use our average cycle time to predict when we might be able to deliver a set of features to our customers. That allows us to use Cost of Delay to rank features.
Cycle time is a small piece of data. Cycle time trends can certainly help project teams make better decisions, and can help the entire business make better decisions. Small data is surprisingly useful.”- Johanna Rothman, President – Rothman Consulting Group
Data Analysis Reveals New Opportunities
“The most important benefit of data and analytics for a business is that they help you find newer opportunities (of growth/improvement/optimization, etc.)
They provide smarter business insights on how to make operations more efficient, teams more productive and customers happier, to increase profitability. They bring significant cost advantages as most of the data is stored on the Cloud.
Also, data and analytics make the traditional process of business decision-making much faster and more effective. By gauging the stability of demands in the market, they enable a strong launch of new business ideas.” – Jitesh Keswani, CEO – e-Intelligence
Answer The Right Questions
“How much time does it take your dev team to build a specific feature? How long does closing a high-profile business partner take? It’s all a matter of measurement and improvement, so you can move at light speed.
Last, but certainly not least, you can gain valuable insights on how people use your product. What features drive your users to upgrade? We can even define what different buyer personas find as most valuable. At Enhancv, we see a vast difference between what experienced professionals find useful and what freelancers need out of their resume.” – Vassilena Valchanova, Digital Strategist – Enhancv
Use Insights To Make Decisions, Not Vice Versa
When performing analysis, the insight you find should not be defined by your previous beliefs, but rather it should open new doors for you. Make data-driven decisions, not decision-centered analysis to maximize value.
Alex Hillsberg of FinancesOnline shared how drawing insights from data analysis has become the force shaping their products.
“We use analytics as a bottom-up strategy that helped us create our value proposition and products that resonate with our market”.
Using the insight obtained from analyzing some of the most successful listings on their website, Alex and his team identified specific patterns that have caused that success. This knowledge has become a decisive product development strategy.
On the other hand, trying to harness the power of data analysis, teams often fall into the temptation of concentrating on a limited data set to prove their existing point, as opposed to understanding the bigger picture. This behavior very often leads to counterproductive results, says Alex.
“We started using analytics as a top-down strategy. We used to think of what vendors — our clients — would like to see on our site. We thought of products around these ideas, then collected data to support these concepts. The problem with this approach is it curtailed the real benefits of analytics. We already had a specific picture in mind and we ended up using data to reinforce that idea. Instead of opening up possibilities, analytics, in this case, limited the scenarios around our preconceived concept.”- Alex Hillsberg, Editor-in-chief – FinancesOnline
Use Collected Data While it is Still Fresh
“There is no sense in collecting analytics if you plan on storing them for a later review, which in most cases won’t happen. Analytics are about NOW and about VISIBILITY!”
If you collect analytics with the only purpose of storing them, the whole process is meaningless. While historical data analysis is crucial for long-term strategies, real-time analytics often play an even bigger role for short-term success.
Integrate analysis of your metrics, productivity data and other insights in day-to-day operations, make them part of your quality control and KPI meetings. Use your findings today, some data does have an expiration date.
“Analytics are the driving force behind our business. Every single one of the pages on our website are A/B tested vigorously before they are fully released into the wild.
On the back-end, we have large TV’s throughout our offices, displaying our daily sales, traffic, goals, conversion rates, and PPC statistics. The key is to display your real-time analytics out in the middle of your office where your team can see them, and keep them top of mind.”- Alex Piña, President –ComfortUp
At the end of the day, you don’t need to be a data scientist to make sense of your data.
The great thing about modern technology is that it can track every part of your process for you. Data collection, deep analysis, building statistical models and running your data through formulae has all been automated. Yet, you remain in control and have the choice to pick insights to turn into actionable work items.