Every digital interaction we make generates data. According to the 2012 Digital Universe study, the global data store – currently around 3,000+ exabytes¹ – is set to double every year. By 2020 it’s estimated there will be a massive 40,000 exabytes of data globally.
No surprises then that transforming data into meaningful analytics is big business. From Google and Microsoft to smaller data and advertising companies, there’s huge demand for this kind of intelligence: it gives you a greater understanding of your business today and the ability to identify trends and make projections for the future that will influence your policies and actions. Use it well and you could gain a massive advantage over your competitors.
So why not turn your attention to your own organisation’s digital gold mine? It’s free and tailored around your business.
1 Measure for change
There’s an old saying “you get what you measure, not what you ask for” which I believe is true. The first thing you need to do is determine the measurements you need to track to meet your business goals (company, department or team). Then decide what information you need from your data to provide these measurements. Let me give you one of our own examples at spaarks:
Our aim was to improve the build quality of our applications. We agreed the best measurement to help us achieve this would be the percentage of bugs found per iteration in a system test. In our data set we included things like the developer’s name and project details so we’d have all the knowledge we needed to drive change. The result? We’re now able to report on the quality of our builds in an instant.
2 Use ranking
As a rule of thumb, you’ll get the biggest gains by focusing on the areas that require most improvement. For example, if you’ve identified you want to reduce the annual travel spend in your organization, measure spend by person or department (depending upon the size of your organisation) and rank the results. Use the classic 80/20 rule whereby you get 80% of your gains by concentrating on the top 20%, i.e. by focusing on the top of the list first you’ll reap the greatest results.
3 Make it quick and flexible
The quicker you get your hands on powerful information, the faster you gain the knowledge you need to drive change. I spoke with an organization that had stored an enormous amount of data over the years and recently transformed it into powerful information which was underpinning various new initiatives. Off to a great start! But here’s the problem.
Each new request for information had to be made via their IT department which had a lead time of between 2-4 weeks which meant, by the time the report arrived, the original question was often irrelevant.
The report itself was delivered in a fixed format so once the company had analysed it and identified areas of concern or interest where they wanted to delve a little deeper – you’ve guessed it – they had to request another report and wait another 2-4 weeks.
The pace of change is faster than ever. So choose a tool that will deliver information from your data in the shortest possible time and most flexible format (e.g. end user customisation, drilldown and pivot capabilities).
Assuming you have a positive culture (in itself the subject of a whole new blog post), your employees will share in your desire to drive improvement through change. Make your goals and objectives clear to everyone and give them access to the toolset. I’m a firm believer that the more useful and relevant information you give to your staff at all levels, the more likely it is they’ll act upon it. There are of course confidentiality and security restraints to consider so I’m not suggesting you expose the details of the CEO expense account to everyone! But do strive to give your teams information they can act on within their own sphere of influence – your chosen tool should support multi-level access throughout your organisation.