The difference between data and information – and why that matters to the success of your business

For many small and mid-sized companies, accessing data is typically more about backward-looking report writing – last month’s sales, quarterly financials, 13-month trailing reports – than forward-looking business analysis. These reports are critical to senior management as a performance gauge, but they only tell half the story. What executives really need is the ability to look ahead, analyze trends and predict future performance.

Computing has changed significantly over the past few years. Advancements in processing, networking, storage and software have presented us with new opportunities to leverage data proactively and drive meaningful impact throughout businesses. Whether it is automated financial planning, factory automation, education, advanced medical diagnoses or any number of applications, data and advanced analytics are present throughout our personal and professional lives.

Many organizations are stuck in a place where they have plenty of data, but not nearly enough information. Leveraged correctly, through the right tools and implementation procedures, information can answer important business questions, such as:

  • What are the current industry trends? How do they align with our business goals and objectives?
  • Who are the most profitable customers? How are we making it easy for them to do business with us and showing them that we value their business?
  • What are our most profitable products or lines of business? How are we thinking ahead so they remain the most profitable in the future? What are our least profitable products or lines or business, and why?
  • How are the big buckets – revenue, expense, efficiency, risk and customer satisfaction – changing? Are they improving?
  • Which employees are maxed out, and which have additional bandwidth?
  • What markets should we look to enter next?

A common thread through all of these questions is “information”. However, information is about more than just acquiring data and technology. To take advantage of all your data, and drive meaningful impact within your organization, you need to devise a comprehensive information strategy. It is a strategy inclusive of all the people, process and technology changes you need to consider when transforming your business to become a data-first organization.

Data can be extremely overwhelming in its raw form. For this reason, many organizations tend to use their available data to report on what has already happened. However, data is most valuable when organizations take it a step further and use it to influence future actions and, ultimately, results.  Here are a few ways that a data-first organization can help solve business problems:

  • Drive customer insights – In our ever changing and evolving businesses, the organization that wins is likely to be the one that uses data most effectively to understand customer behaviors and build long-lasting relationships that lead to revenue growth. Building a “segment of one” view of your customers can help you understand both past and future behaviors and help anticipate their next action.
  • Improve product and service efficiency – Many organizations are using data to improve their current offerings as well as develop new products based on current, historic and public data.
  • Lower business risks – One of the most valuable byproducts associated with analyzing data is the ability to spot trends and anomalies that were previously invisible. This capability can be applied to a myriad of business problems like understanding your customers more thoroughly or improving the efficiency of your supply chains.

It’s critical for business leaders to come up with the questions they want answered before looking for solutions, or they might find themselves overloaded with even more data and less capable of finding valuable, hidden information.

Implementing a modern data strategy and becoming a “data-first” organization is no trivial undertaking. The business and technical issues are complex, and there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. It is important that you put together the right team to align your goals and help you get started. Contact us today to start a conversation about getting your organization on the path to better business outcomes.

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