by Clive Keyte.

Data Driven Strategy – As a business leader, we know you are passionate about your strategy. In fact, your leadership team probably meets on a regular basis to share exciting ideas on how to take your business forwards for success.

A Data Driven Strategy

For many businesses, even the finest visions fail to reach the implementation stage for one simple reason. Data!

When you fail to apply data to your visions, these exciting ideas never progress to an actionable business strategy. Even the finest ideas and biggest ambitions are destined to fail without an actionable strategy to provide your roadmap to success.

Data essentials for business strategy

To make that leap from vision to reality, data needs to be factored in right from the beginning. Let’s look at how companies employ data to create successful business strategies:

How successful businesses link data to strategy

  1. They use a wide base of data sets from internal and external sources. Examples of internal sources could be the company CRM, website analytics, sales systems and so forth. External data might be benchmarking data, commissioned industry landscape reports or competitor analysis.
  2. They systematically gather, assess and utilise this data and then use it to underpin all decision making. This ensures that data drives strategic decisions. Think of it as the perfect marriage between creative thinking and objective validation!
  3. They invest in their data systems and use automated business strategy software that links to these systems to leverage their value. (Think, for example, how a strategy management system such as QuickScore links to internal business systems to constantly gather KPI data for reporting, and to further guide the strategy cycle.)

By applying this kind of robust process to data management, these businesses make better decisions. Why? Because they use hard data, rather than relying on historical perspectives or ‘gut instinct’.

Data-driven company case studies

We automatically think of big tech firms when it comes to the strategic deployment of data. Arguably, companies such as Amazon have achieved their success through cutting-edge data usage. But smaller brands provide a fascinating insight too. For example, Ilunion, the Spanish hotel chain, releases detailed operational data to its staff to support localised decision making across the company. The company gathers over 12 million data points from hotel occupancy to revenue analytics – and then consolidates them into user-friendly dashboards which are made available to every single employee.

Transport for London does something similar; mapping 100 million customer journeys each year into a central repository that is made available to every employee. Each internal cost centre is made accountable for its results, and TfL also allows every business unit to generate, assess and manage its own KPIs.

And Adobe operates with an entirely data-driven model that maps every customer journey from initial product research to repurchase; gathering real-time data throughout the process and generating behavioural and experiential insights alongside sales data.

By taking these approaches, the case study companies above have all created powerful data-driven cultures, whereby employees are encouraged to be creative and to take ownership of the business – with the information that they need to sense-check their thinking and recommendations for change.

The data challenge

The drive for data will only accelerate too. Operational efficiencies are likely to become even more pressing after the past year of Covid challenges and to run increasingly digital, lean, efficient and smart businesses, data will be needed to underpin every decision and every action.

Transitioning to a data-driven business

If your business has had a culture of being driven by ‘gut instinct’ ideas or historical data, the challenge of adopting a ‘data first’ culture is challenging.

It’s essential to evolve both your culture and your systems. Key blockers to this process are legacy systems, siloed business units and old-fashioned, resistant cultures. This process requires investment – from the new systems themselves to the internal leaders and data experts that will be needed to train your people and to build confidence and buy-in for this new approach. Your business leaders need to show that they are committing to a ‘data first’ strategy and using it as a transformational platform to take the entire business forwards.

Approach this as you would any transformation business strategy, using an approach such as the Intrafocus seven-step strategic planning process to simplify things as much as possible and to apply the necessary strategic rigour at each stage.

The roadmap towards becoming a data-driven process

  1. Create a data-focused culture – one that encourages all employees to be innovative and creative, with data to guide their thinking. Ensure your leaders are visibly doing this and embracing the journey of change and development. It can be uncomfortable to bring in this degree of change, but it is your priority for true change.
  2. Invest in your data systems to create a holistic data loop across the entire organisation. Ensure that this data is used at board level and cascaded down, using real-time systems that ensure data is accurate, up to date and available in formats that suit the reader.
  3. Ensure that the business’s core agenda is based on this data and information, so that all decision making is predicated on data.
  4. Hire data professionals with the skills and experience needed to lead this internal change. Train and develop internal champions.
  5. Make data rich and exciting, with dashboard reports and open access to all employees.
  6. Engage your young ‘digital native’ employees who have grown up in a digital world and who naturally understand information and technology – they may have exciting ideas and insights, and will naturally have motivation and enthusiasm which can be leveraged for the change.
  7. Invest in technology and infrastructure, looking at machine learning and AI, and being open to new ideas.

The benefits of a data-driven strategy

The benefits of this new ‘data first’ strategy are truly powerful. Decision-makers become more confident when they can justify their conclusions with hard data. It also becomes far easier to obtain buy-in.

Employees across the organisation can use the same data to suggest ideas for improvements and to innovate – using the same data that leaders have access to, via an exciting base of rich dashboards and informatics.

KPIs become far easier to set and to manage – and teams can take on their own with confidence

Employees become more motivated – seeing the figures which evidence their results (and which make it far easier for rewards to be applied for high performance.)

The entire strategic process becomes far simpler from start to end!

Find out more

Ready to bring data into the heart of your business strategy? The team of experts at Intrafocus can help you to achieve strategic success; whatever your current stage of strategy development. Please contact us to find out more.