We live in a data-rich age. According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index, annual global IP traffic will pass the zettabyte (1000 exabytes) threshold by the end of 2016, and will reach 2 zettabytes per year by 2019. Impressive numbers, no doubt, but, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The rules of the game have changed. The challenge before any company today is not about aggregating data and building up their stockpile. What’s important is-how does one gain the most insights from the data available? And, most importantly, how does one leverage that insight to gain an edge over competition?
Picture this-you’re sitting with a potential client and making a sales pitch. As a part of the same, you begin spewing a host of facts and figures. Now, all this while, you’re thinking that the client is mightily impressed with your exhaustive knowledge base. But, and here’s the catch-how do you know the client isn’t actually thinking, “How will all this data help my business?”
In other words, the number of spreadsheets, pie-charts, bar graphs, et all, you bring to the table isn’t likely to impress your client (except maybe in terms of how good your research is). The company representative you’re pitching to is probably aware of your ability (otherwise, why would he even bother meeting you?). However, they’re probably more interested in knowing if you know how to use the data at your disposal and what they need to do next. In other words-the data repository you have access to won’t do the trick-it’s that single idea or insight you offer that makes all the difference.
So, what is the difference between data for the sake of data and actionable information? Well, let’s look at an example-say you find out that a friend has moved from the US to India. This is an isolated piece of information that doesn’t require any action on your part. Now, say you knew that the friend requires a talk plan which offers a substantial number of ISD minutes, coupled with an internet pack that offers fast and reliable connectivity for emails and browsing. That should prompt action on your part-the individual in question is a potential customer and you have a few products that can be tailored to suit his requirements. Of course, equally important is when you found out-remember; the telecom space is a cut-throat one and sometimes, even two minutes is too late. So, hopefully, your discovery was at an opportune time-perhaps while logging into your prospecting system. This means you were ready to act on the opportunity at hand. THAT is an actionable insight.
It isn’t that simple, though. As per KPMG, the process of uncovering that vital nugget of information that may serve as an insight has become complex, owing to a rapidly evolving technological ecosystem. This has disrupted an organization’s ability to adapt-not too hard to believe, keeping in mind the breakneck speed at which technology is evolving and new sources of data are being uncovered! Data sources, such as social media feeds, customer blogs and mobile data are all playing a part in increasing complexity and creating opportunities for companies.
Having said that, however, there are broad rules one can follow to make the most of one’s data. First and foremost, the emphasis is no longer on capturing data, but on analysing it. So, gather data from multiple sources (yes, all kinds) and then link it in a meaningful way to analysis. Next, figure out the best way of breaking down this data dump and rehash it in a way that throws up previously hidden bits of information. Finally, remember: the best data analysis is useless if the insights don’t find their way to the decision-makers in a timely manner and in a format they can understand.
In a nutshell, bear in mind that the idea isn’t to stop collecting, analyzing and applying massive amounts of data. Quite the contrary. Just ensure that you don’t end up sending every kernel of data, every list and every chart to your client. Focus on meaningful insights and share things that pass the “so what” test. That means presenting insights and ideas that matter to the client-the “Here’s what to do” rather than “Here’s how we get there.” After all, it’s just data!