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Data, data, and more data. It’s one of the greatest gifts of digital transformation—but also one of the greatest curses. In fact, many companies today are practically drowning in data—collecting it, storing it, organizing it, and spending vast amounts of time graphically enhancing it. But at the end of the day, that data is pointless if they don’t use it.
If you don’t already work for a company that values data-backed decision-making, I’m speaking to you. Let me give you an example. I have a friend who worked for a giant legacy-era organization. The company was spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on in-house videographers to produce video content that customers were not watching. The data was present—and it was even tracked by the marketing team. But the powers-that-be chose to continue doing what had always been done, rather than investing other in channels or vehicles of communication that might get their point across better. This is a prime example of wasted data—data that sits, rather than sets you apart.
Indeed, it seems many companies have gotten onboard the analytics train. They may even have data scientists and AI software to process it. But without an action plan to use it, they both wasting money—and falling behind their competitors. The following are a few things to keep in mind if you are swimming in data without a paddle.
Consider your culture. Truthfully, no amount of data you gather will be strong enough to move against a culture that does not accept it. Before investing in expensive as-a-Service (aaS) software and machine learning programs, consider whether the data will be used. If not, I’d go one step further: decide whether you need to change your culture. I’ve shared some tips for doing so here: Building a Data Driven Culture in Your Organization.
Consider your provider. In today’s digital landscape, it’s no longer a matter of knowing how to do something—it’s a matter of knowing which aaS provider can best help. If you aren’t getting the clarity or answers you need from your current service, do some research. Consider what insights and business outcomes you need, and find someone who can deliver.
Take a cut check on your commitment. As my colleague Shelly Kramer wrote in her piece, “Competing on Customer Experience: Your Best Bet for the Win,” many companies pay lip service to CX, but few lay the groundwork to make it a priority. In today’s market, CX doesn’t have to be a buzzword. It can be an informed and conscious choice to create products and services that truly fit your customers’ needs. As yourself: If you aren’t going to use the data, what are you collecting it for?
Cut it down to size. Most organizations are collecting far more data than they could ever possibly use. To help clear that feeling of data “overwhelm,” look hard at the types of insights you are trying to gain, and whether the data you are collecting contributes to it. If not, ditch it. You can always build up to more insights later on.
Consider the outcomes. Research shows organizations that leverage customer behavioral insights outperform peers by 85 percent in sales growth. That’s a staggering number—and one that becomes even more upsetting if your competitors are using data you aren’t. Today’s data can help you reallocate your budget, staff smarter, anticipate customer complaints, and make product enhancements before your customers even realize they want them. Those are the things that help set you apart in digital transformation.
Truthfully, there are many things that you can do without in digital transformation today. Artificial intelligence? Not necessary. Augmented reality? Cool, but will not make or break you at this moment. But a clear plan to use your data: this truly is something you cannot live without, especially as the IoT continues to grow. With so many options to collect data—and so many insights to be had—it’s only a matter of time before someone else is serving your customers better and smarter than you are. The only question is: do you want to be a step ahead, or a step behind?
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This article was first published on Forbes.