This Is How Executives Are Fixing Their Data Shortcomings
As executives look to identify disruption and change in their markets, they’re investing in more data tools and technologies.
This article was published on Forbes.com in March 2021.
Data drives the global economy—and the demand for novel datasets is only increasing.
Business leaders are putting a lot of energy into finding ways to tap both internal and external data sources. And data collection and analysis are central to leaders’ strategies for increasing organizational agility, according to a survey of 1,001 U.S. mid-market executives that Forbes Insights conducted on behalf of Capital One in late 2020.
When asked how they planned to detect change and disruption, surveyed executives said they want to improve how they use data. Now and in the coming year, the vast majority of business leaders plan to:
- Develop state-of-the-art analytics and dashboards (81%)
- Access a wider range of data (76%)
- Deploy state-of-the-art data strategies (76%)
Just as compelling as what the survey suggests about the future is what it reveals about the present: Most leaders don’t think their businesses are leveraging data effectively or strategically.
Just 21% strongly agreed that their existing data strategies are informing strategic and operating decisions in a timely, accurate and insightful manner. And only 10% strongly agreed that their data strategies are among the most advanced in their industries.
Processing More, Processing Better
Data is not finite. In fact, the creation of new data is accelerating more quickly than ever before.
Because that’s the case, supply isn’t the challenge. Rather, it’s spinning the data into gold that’s top-of-mind for these executives.
“Every touchpoint with the consumer is a data point,” says Lori Coulter, CEO and co-founder of Summersalt, a direct-to-consumer apparel brand. “We’re capturing this data from an engineering perspective and then … using [this data] on a day-to-day basis to optimize. We just have data at our fingertips.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Coulter explained, having the most robust data made it possible to create new consumer-demand forecasts for upcoming sales cycles.
“In Covid, within four to six weeks, we essentially planned for every potential scenario, [and] we finally decided that the consumer would come back in the summer. By May we weren't 100% sure, but we bet on growth and we bet on the consumer—and we were right.”
Clearly, data is another critical piece of the puzzle, helping organizations improve both agility and resilience. When asked about how they plan to increase agility and resilience across their operations, many leaders indicated that they’re focusing on improving their capabilities to process and analyze big data.
And more than one-third (37%) are also planning to invest in predictive artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The Always-On Imperative
To help detect change and disruption, 61% of surveyed executives say they are moving away from periodic performance evaluation to continuous data analysis.
David Duncan, president and CEO of First Hospitality, could be ahead of the curve in this respect.
“Our teams had the technology in place to not only stay in communication but to collaborate—looking at live data, looking at active reports and the health of the business,” he says. “For that, we needed to quickly retool our technology platform to make sure everything was in the cloud. Thankfully most of it was, but it wasn’t necessarily easy to access. Now it’s intuitive.”
If it’s true that every organization must become a tech company to thrive in today’s hypercompetitive landscape, it’s also true that each must accept the critical importance of data for doing business.
Whether it’s used to optimize global supply chains or create better customer experiences, data is the digital life force of the global economy. Savvy executives have been racing to embrace it.
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