Listen to your business data
If you read my previous article titled “CTO’s, are you sitting on the ‘Iceberg of Ignorance’?” one of the main takeaways was how to overcome the disconnect between business and IT.
Without a close and comfortable relationship between the two, the prospects of a ‘happily ever after’ for either are dim at best. As in life, once the two are in sync, the biggest benefit are what they can produce together, which in the case of business and IT, is rich, glorious data.
If you have a successful business, chances are you have good data to go with it. Not only that, chances are your data is closely aligned with your business’s mission and vision, its reason for being.
Most strong businesses I work with don’t generate data for the sake of generating data; they collect data about the things that matter most to the business – their customers, their partners, their products, and new developments in their industries, for example. They also gather data that talk to how the business is doing, which is then measured against the ‘mission and vision’ that good management is supposed to safeguard and uphold.
If you’re a business consultant you’ll probably be most interested in data that talks to your key performance indicators (KPIs), because ultimately this will tell you how well (or not) your business is doing. That’s why overcoming the ‘Iceberg of Ignorance’ is so important – you want data collection touch points in as many relevant parts of your business as possible, so you can collect as much meaningful data about your business as possible.
But getting good data for the right reasons is only the starting point. When was the last time you asked ‘Is my data talking to my business?’ and then ‘Is my business listening to my data?’.
Any answer other than a resounding ‘YES’ to the first questions should be met with immediate retrospection and an action plan to turn your business around. If your IT is generating data that bears little to no relevance to the business, you’re wasting time, money and will likely be out of business before long.
Even if your data is talking to your business, the easy road is to box it up in a bunch of reports that tick all the relevant boxes and keep doing what you’ve always been doing. That’s the route most businesses take – passive, traditional and reactive. If you want to really challenge in your market space you need to constantly be building competitive advantage, and the best way to build competitive advantage is – you guessed it – to really listen to what your data is saying.
Really listening to your data has its own term you’re likely quite familiar with: business intelligence. This goes well beyond charts and reports and starts to interrogate the data to get the business optimised at each of its data touch points (for instance, point of sale, manufacturing, quality control, packaging, client services, response times, and so on).
They key here is to not only listen, but to act, and in acting on your good data, you begin to extract its real value. Do that right and suddenly you’re in a position to not only innovate, but also look at what others are doing and completely disrupt the very industry you’re operating in.
So sail past your Iceberg of Ignorance, start generating great data from your business, and listen hard to what the data tells you.