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Business and data – building better operations

Business and data - building better operations 1

By Bryan Kirschner, Vice President Strategy, DataStax

Building your business on data. What have we learned so far?

Coming into 2020, running your business based on what your data told you was a reality for some businesses, and a goal for many more. The coronavirus pandemic forced all companies to become more digital and more data-driven.

What lessons have we learned so far, and how can companies improve their data-driven processes over time?

There’s a meme going round about how the C-level term that has had the most impact on business and IT strategy in the past few years is not the CEO or CIO, but COVID-19. For some, this will lead to a chuckle at most. For others, it will ring all too true. In 2020, running your business based on what your data told you was a reality for some businesses, and a goal for many more. The pandemic forced all companies to become more digital and more data-driven.

For all businesses, data will continue to be essential to their operations. According to Rita Sallam of Gartner, the top ten trends for data through the rest of 2020 will be about scaling up and being more agile with data, as “… data and analytics leaders require an ever-increasing velocity and scale of analysis in terms of processing and access to succeed in the face of unprecedented market shifts.” COVID-19 has made this trend inevitable.

What comes next for data?

All companies are therefore becoming ‘data-driven’ companies. The challenge coming up is therefore how data can keep being a differentiator for businesses when every enterprise has access to data and analytics.

While companies can all gather data and use it for their operations, the real differentiator is speed. It’s not just that companies can generate and store data at scale, it’s that they can make decisions faster and then deploy data in valuable ways more quickly than their competitors. This plays into the affirmative side of competing against other companies as well – when markets are healthy and dynamic, new opportunities can emerge that you can take advantage of by moving more quickly.

Asking the right questions to get the right answers

Keep a customer focus in mind for your approach to data. By asking questions that focus on what customers need, you can get a head start in creating value that customers are willing to pay for. For example, asking how much your customers are willing to pay for your data products can quickly show you where you are – either you have a great product in place already that data can improve, or it will show you where you need to work harder around using data effectively.

Similarly, you can use data around your goals to improve your decisions. Asking what data your customers want around their interactions with you, and how you can provide them with insights from that data, can get you started. Alongside this, you can look at more strategic goals like how you can improve your Net Promoter Score over and above your competitors, how to reduce churn, or increase lifetime value, by supplying your customers with data products.

The wrong questions about data focus on internal and political issues. For example, if your team has to answer questions on how to prove the net present value of data over five years, or how to negotiate data access between business units, then your focus is not on the customer. There are other questions that are reasonable to ask – for example, around security of data and justification for storage costs – but these can easily distract you from the opportunities that exist around that data. Discussing these questions can easily lead your teams down rabbit holes.

You will likely be better off solving exactly the governance and security questions you need to in order to deliver one specific, new data-driven experience to customers in the next quarter, and then the next quarter after that, in turn, versus trying to solve them in the abstract. Because those new experiences will themselves generate data, if you ship faster, you will learn faster. This is a new way of working for many, but getting this flywheel spinning is the key to staying ahead if you’re starting ahead–or stealing a march on competitors who don’t realize its importance.

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