These days… our world runs on data. Driven by the desire to get intimate* with our customers, we collect data. Lots of data. By using intelligent tools and techniques, we can improve how we serve our customers and thereby make a difference. However, having a lot of data isn’t sufficient. You need to have the right data, you must be able to store your data correctly, have the right structure, and need the interface in which you can easily put together reports. And – last but not least – you need to be able to use the collected data to respond to the latest developments. Sounds difficult? It doesn’t have to be. We’ll provide you with some tips on what to pay attention to when you want to get more value out of your data.
What data do you have?
Start thinking about the data you have and what the potential value could be. You won’t be the first organisation that actually sits on a gold mine without knowing it. Decide what you want to achieve with your business and get some advice on the feasibility. Do you want to improve business processes, customer service or are you looking for an entirely new business model? Do you want extensive business intelligence reports or do you want to automate processes? And do you have enough data to achieve that goal? Or even the right people to interpret the data and collect new data? It would be a waste of time and money to restructure data afterwards or find out too late the project isn’t meeting your business goals.
Keep your data clean and structured
Keep your data structured from the beginning. Sooner or later someone has to understand your data. Make sure you have defined the right terms, especially name and description, and write these down in a data catalogue that’s accessible for everyone that has to do something with the data. f.e.: when is someone a customer? We often see customer information that is collected in multiple systems. Is a customer defined the same in the different CRM systems? Besides that you need standardisation to get useful insights. An example is that you want everybody to use the same data notation: Is 01/03 the 1st of March, or the 3rd of January? Prevent that one is writing Den Bosch, the other ‘S Hertogenbosch and another one ‘S-Hertogenbosch. As result, dropdown menus are often a better choice than giving people the freedom to write themselves. Cleaning the data afterwards is time consuming and thereby a waste of money.
Democratise your data
Traditional systems are often made within strictly normalised data structures. The end user is the specialised data analyst who is used to connecting the different tables on a basis of key values or who can interpret exotic column names in the wink of an eye. However, this heavily increases your dependency on your data department or an external organisation. Your business is far more flexible if everyone in your organisation is able to gather insights or create reports on actual data. This is called democratising your data.
To achieve this, you have to make sure that every department in your organisation has access – and is able to make sense of the data. Build a system that brings your data together and in which someone understands immediately what kind of data he/she is looking at. This way someone can generate reports that are useful for their own work. It is really easy to make your company data-driven, but it will only have value if your data meets expectations and is accessible for the right persons. One big advantage is that users all use the same data source instead of copies of different spreadsheet in which data can be different: there is only one truth.
Last but not least:
Security and GDPR (privacy)
Make sure you know what you are doing when you collect data. You want to do this in a safe manner without risking security breaches. Don’t forget to have a look at the privacy legislation as well, especially with the upcoming European privacy law, GDPR, that will be in effect from May this year. This subject on it’s own is already quite complicated, from the 25th of May (2018) every organisation should be ready. Are you?
So: start by making an inventory of what kinds of data you have and how it can potentially benefit your business. Start there and then get some expert help to validate your initial ideas. If you have any questions or if you are looking for a sparring partner, you can always contact us at +44 (0) 161 871 0330.
*Back to the day and age of the old grocery store around the corner, who knows you and what you want. For generation Z: There used to be a time in which groceries weren’t bought online and delivered to your doorstep. People would actually visit (smaller) buildings to buy food and common household products. There would be a counter in the room, a desk to pay. The people behind it (of the owner) worked there for years and years and got to know each and every visitor (an actual person) very well.
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