“Business is a continual dealing with the future; it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight.” ~Henry R. Luce

“A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.” ~Khalil Gibran

Data, data, data. We are swimming in a sea of data in today’s business environment, and we have become fascinated by it. We can see what is going on in our operation constantly, and the insight it gives us is astounding. It isn’t about getting information though, it’s about what you do with it that counts. All of your fancy dashboards are really pretty, but unless they tell you how to optimize the NEXT hour, day, week, that’s all they are; pretty.

Interesting doesn’t mean applicable - Real time information on revenue is REALLY interesting to most of us. But it might not tell you a whole lot as to what to do to drive the number in the next time interval. In many cases you need to get MORE data to make effective use of the information.

  • Are the items in the premium exposure points in the store selling? If not, maybe the display needs to be reworked, or maybe you need to switch it out for another product.
  • Are the products being advertised on the website moving? All of them??? Could they be replaced with something else that would move faster?
  • Are the number of service calls running higher today? Could it be profitable to bring in another staff member? Also, what are the calls about and could that be a reactive problem to solve?

Again, data is great, but you need to do something with it. Affecting the future is the preference, fixing the past is next best, but just looking at it should be unacceptable as it has little value.

Define the action steps – Defining how you plan to use the data gets you focused on the action as opposed to observance.

  • “If this happens, then do this” – Define thresholds that trigger action automatically.
  • “What is your anticipated result” – Now define what you do if the results fall short, if they are exceeded, if they trend up/down.

Defining the action also gets you out of the equation and lets you expose more of your team to the data and how to work with it. You may be surprised at what successful ideas they come up with.

Check on how we did – The try, learn, try again, and repeat cycle. Almost all of the time you will get it wrong on your first try. Take a look at the metrics again, see if you can dive one layer deeper and try to identify other drivers of action. It is always a process, and one that can always be improved.

Doing all of this ensures that you are USING your data, not just enjoying the look of your data. Our current business climate is fascinated with data, but it will only be those who are effective at utilizing it that will gain the competitive advantage.

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