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Data: big asset or a big waste of time?

When it comes to understanding data in 2018, it is a very common misconception to believe that it is only the tech giants of the world – Google, Microsoft, Facebook – need to understand and have the capacity to use, big data.

Well, that is simply not the case. Data is a huge strategic asset to all businesses these days, regardless of whether you are a High Street retailer, a distribution logistics company or a bakery. Big data and the insight it can provide will affect every single business and it is important to understand why – and, more importantly – how.

Reliance on the Internet for critical business applications will only ever continue to grow. We are gathering as much data in two days as we did from the beginning of time to 2003. Every two days. To put a figure on it is difficult, but the amount of digital information that currently exists is approximately five zettabytes. One zettabyte is one billion terabytes, or one trillion gigabytes, and that is a staggering amount of data by anyone’s calculations.

But what does that mean for businesses?

Data can enhance your business operations, improve decision making and can also enhance your company’s value.  Here, we are going to explain these three opportunities to utilise your data and offer practical advice on how to make the most of it.

Enhance business operations

Data’s most obvious value is in exposing areas of your business that need improvement, shine more of a light on your productivity and measure the efficiency of your practices.

In this sense, data is less about staff working with it and more about what your IT collects on your behalf, in order for you to disseminate it. The rise of machine-to-machine communication plays a huge part of this, to both automate and improve visibility during manufacturing processes, for example. Machines now possess the capabilities to learn from the data they collect, with some capable of modifying their behaviour based on what the data tells them.

Machine-to-machine communication is a growing sector but has already displayed demonstrable results and is a sector which will continue to gradually grow, but other industries can learn from the developments made in this arena to further enhance business operations.

So, data can help improve efficiency within a business. It can also help optimise sales and marketing processes, which has seen the marketing automation industry explode; tasks that didn’t exist a decade ago now can be fully automated, freeing up those in a number of business functions to focus on more intensive activities. These tasks include particular types of marketing or managing the document database on your employees. Small tasks that don’t require human input – rather, just someone to do the do, as it were – are most at risk of becoming automated practices.

Data has also had the power to influence product specifications, ranges and help develop new products for quite some time, and will only continue to be a more important element of the product development cycle.

Data will continue to be generated; it’s down to you to ensure that you capitalise on this data to support strategic goals.

Improve decision making

Something machines can’t do – yet! Data has a huge amount of value to an organisation and it has the power to allow us to make better operational decisions, as we have already explored.

However, it’s not just a case of printing off the latest company accounts and billable client hours. Businesses that leverage data can make smarter decisions, but you need to know what you want to gain from the data.

Start by developing the key questions that you need this data to shine some light on. Is it product development? Is it to further understand buying habits? Where can costs be saved with automation? How can you optimise the supply chain?

The most successful businesses rely on data to inform changes as well as review any changes implemented. Data visualisation will help with this – it turns the raw data into memorable insight, so ensure that your team is working towards increasing data visibility and share this with the wider company.

Enhance company value

As we’ve already established, data is increasing in value to an organisation and has become a key asset in its own right. Monetising your data can improve a company’s value – and bottom line.

You’re likely to already be doing this in some form, by gathering the right data and utilising that data effectively increases the value of your business to the marketplace. To use a recent example, IBM acquired the Weather Company for US$2bn to gain access to the company’s vast and specialised data. Conversely, the opposite can have a negative effect. Data breaches, poor fidelity data and not bothering with data at all are all costing businesses money and value, which will only be scrutinised more regularly now that GDPR has taken effect.

 

Data will only continue to spur on business changes. Those businesses that maximise their understanding and application of data insight will be much better prepared to face proper business challenges. Those that fail to understand and apply data will only get left behind to languish.

Is your business ready to face digital challenges? Contact us today to see how we can help.