POSTED BY: | February 20, 2018

“The Computer Age is just beginning. Most companies today have about a thousand times more data than they actually use to make better decisions. When you overlay the latest in computer science – AI, machine learning, deep learning, unsupervised learning – you will create an explosion of opportunity and also a real emergency. Over the next few years, as the cost of making something intelligent approaches zero, companies will succeed and fail based on their ability to translate data, including historical data, into insights and actions and products and services in real time. We like to think of ourselves as a company with big ears: We listen, we learn, we understand – and we create things.” — Michael Dell: Dell, founder and CEO in Forbes magazine’s 100th Anniversary Issue, “Lessons and Ideas by the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds.”

There has been a lot of talk for a while now about big data. How to get on board, collect it, manage it, how to recruit data scientists to analyze it. Many are now looking towards data mining techniques and hopes for AI to elevate big data into working and learning solutions all in real time. But truth be told, most of our clients are still trying to get a foothold on simply utilizing their data. Data can be leveraged for powerful insights, but you must know how to break it down into meaningful business decisions.

This quote has so many calls to action within one statement- given my experience, here are the parts I really homed in on:

“a thousand times more data than they actually use”

Has your company struggled with what the heck to do with the data it already has? Take a step back and ask: what do the numbers mean to your business? And what actions should be taken to improve the most important metrics of the business? If the data isn’t feeding into your Key Performance Indicators, then you are probably capturing the wrong data. You can’t optimize what you don’t measure- take a step back and ask what matters most? What are we trying to achieve? Now look at the data you are collecting and make sure it aligns with those goals.

“make better decisions”

This is the crux, what is the point in capturing data if it doesn’t provide any real insights which allow you to make better business decisions? Successful brands know how they are different and what they do best. They avoid the “all things to all people” trap.

“translate data into insights and actions and products”

The beautiful thing about data is the potential to harness it into better products and strategy. Don’t get stuck focusing on data which simply tells you how much and how often. Look for unique groups and segments which signal trends or opportunities. Make sure you have data that focuses on the “jobs to be done.” Once you get to the point of knowing your way around the data, start compiling a list of possible actions you could take to engage what the data is telling you. This could be as simple as brainstorming calls to action for each corresponding data story.

“We listen, we learn, we understand”

Truth be told, listening is the most powerful thing any company can do. What does the data really mean? I’m a big fan of data (shocker!). But I never fail to be surprised by how much can be learned by simply listening to customers tell their stories. Data can only tell us so much if we don’t use the stories to thread the data points together. Don’t lose sight of the big picture, it’s an easy trap to fall into with data. Data is simply the minutiae. Understanding context is what will lead to higher level decision making.