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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Examining a Data Driven Strategy

Is your business strategy based more on gut feeling or a commitment to forecasting, formulating sales plans and making decisions based on objective data points? If your business leans more toward the first category, there should be an urgency to move to a more data driven strategy. The role of big data to direct strategic decision making has been likened to the early adopters of computing, with forward thinking organizations seeing the biggest returns and the laggards spending years trying to catch up. 

In a Summit20 Talk from the GHX Supply Chain Summit, Josh Tait of GHX speaks on the role of data and different approaches to data asking – does your business fall in the category of traditional or progressive? Interestingly, the size of the business doesn’t necessarily indicate where you land with regard to how or if you are utilizing data. Regardless of large or small organization, some are doing it well and some are not.

What does a traditionalist look like? Within these organizations you might hear things like, “We are growing. We don’t see the need to do anything differently?” or “We know what we are doing/selling. We have been doing it this way successfully for decades”. In businesses with this approach, you typically will not see a lot of coordination between the people that collect data and how it may be used. Also, it probably is not clear who owns it? Is it marketing, sales, biz dev? Often these businesses are relying on sales information as a source for data to make strategic decisions. While sales data can be valuable, it may also contain serious flaws and generally is not considered a true source of information.

How does a forward thinking business approach data? You may think that more mature companies have it together but sometimes it is the startup that has a good strategy around data driven decisions. It doesn’t mean that they have it all figured out though, and even accept that the data may not be perfect. However, it is recognized that there is insight to be gained from looking at the data over time. It is a point in the right direction. Where businesses are successfully utilizing data, someone is definitely responsible, talent is invested into mining the data and it is cross functional within your business.

A good place to start when you are just beginning a data strategy, is to decide what to do with the data and get comfortable with the notion that it may surface more questions initially rather than answer them. Think about how you will apply the data — market share, growth, pricing? For instance assume you discover a variance in market pricing. This information can help you ask the right questions and provide direction on how to organize your sales teams. As a product manager asking how to deploy teams, it is crucial to know where you stand in relation to your competition and in price. Access to relevant data can inform your pricing strategy and possibly your ultimate success.

The saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know. Open your mind to data — either in-house or external and accept that the data may not be perfect but it is directional, has value and will provide insight. Watch the Summit20 Talk.

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