Data is integral to every department in a business, from Operations to Human Resources. However, as our recent research has revealed, many stakeholders find data challenging to interpret and, as a result, they struggle to produce actionable insights that can inform business decisions. Does this sound familiar?
With increasing numbers of data sources and larger data sets available, it’s important now, more than ever, to ensure that you’re using data to make informed business decisions. I’ve made it my mission to tackle some of the key obstacles when it comes to turning insights into business actions.
Three key blockers in data and how to transform them
One of the key blockers to producing actionable insights is a lack of collaboration between teams. Different business functions, with very different responsibilities and sources of data, often work in silos, with no shared goal or incentive to support each other. However, this can be overcome by creating cross-departmental project teams to encourage knowledge-sharing. If data teams share initial findings, through constructive feedback departments should be feeding into the project so data teams know where insights need to go next until data provides actionable solutions.
2. Clarity of data requests
Having a business challenge and simply not knowing exactly what to ask your data team, can also be a hindrance to finding actionable data. You should approach data teams with a clear business question to steer analysis, otherwise there’s a real risk of getting lost in data and wasting hours of valuable time. Tapping into the challenges faced by stakeholders can help shape business questions and will allow you to decide how best to segment data. For example, if you’re facing a business performance challenge, you might ask your insights department to investigate where exactly performance is lacking while getting other departments to overlay expertise that can offer solutions to improve performance.
3. Data narrative
The way you present your data makes a big difference to whether data is actioned. Poor presentation of data can be “lost in translation”, which means you need to understand your audience; who are you seeking to get buy-in from? Find a compelling narrative and show them, using simple and effective data visualisation. Ensure your findings are relevant and don’t distract from the narrative.
Workflows for producing actionable insights
Producing actionable insights requires a seamless workflow and strong communication between teams. Let’s explore how this might work when you seek answers to common business challenges.
Operations: Overcoming a high client churn
As an Operations team, you have a competitive advantage over your rival companies: your unique customer data. If, for example, you’re concerned about a particularly high client churn rate and want to find an actionable way to reduce this, you may want a report on client care processes and at which stage clients leave.
While data is being investigated, involve the Account Management team to fully understand the service or product clients have on offer and how they interact with them.
Once you have all the data and department ‘buy-in’ to solve the problem, it becomes easier for both departments to collaborate as a project team using data to keep the project on track.
Don’t forget to re-visit insights to see whether the situation has improved after a period of time as this will show your data team their value in the project.
Marketing: maximising ROI with your 2021 budget
As the Head of Marketing, you’ll soon be pulling together your annual budget for 2021. With COVID-19, you’ll probably have a smaller budget than last year. How should you distribute your budget to get maximum ROI whilst meeting ambitious sales targets?
Perhaps you’ll need to decide how to distribute budget between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Whilst SEO is typically a longer-term strategy that can cost less and deliver high ROI, PPC can deliver fast results to boost sales of specific products.
To find out how to distribute budget, you’d start a project to gather data from the analytics team on your SEO and PPC performance. By understanding ROI for both channels, you can evaluate where cost is best placed throughout the year.
With budgets allocated, share resource with the rest of the department so they can present opportunities for improvement and growth using existing budget available. If new budget doesn’t quite stretch for an opportunity your team think is worth investing, at least you have a strong case to get another department involved like Sales or Operations to see if you can work on a joint campaign to spread costs.
Business Development: discerning the viability of new market entry
When entering a new market, there’s a lot of pressure to get it right the first time.
So, you’ve analysed the potential market size and it seems like a great opportunity, but what about your pricing strategy for your range of products? It’s only with that in mind that you can begin to estimate potential revenue and make a final decision about the market’s viability.
You could approach your data team for an analysis of competitor pricing and even commission in-market research, such as surveys and focus groups, to find the sweet spot.
Integrating with your Marketing and Operations teams, you could estimate the cost of entering a new market and establishing brand awareness. With this information, you could present to the Finance team and make a judgement about whether entering the new market is likely to result in significant profit.
Finance: making tough decisions on reducing business costs
With the onset of COVID-19, many Heads of Finance were faced with a crisis – costs needed cutting, quickly, to ensure business continuity during a lockdown. But where to start?
Firstly, you could review the individual budgets for every business function and identify line items that can be frozen. Some classic examples would include any non-vital external suppliers, people budget and staff bonuses.
For external suppliers carrying out activity vital to the business, you’d need to ask your Procurement team to conduct research on cheaper alternatives. Simultaneously, you could ask your Data team to assess the feasibility of bringing this activity in-house by analysing the time logs of existing staff and seeing if there’s capacity that could be created by re-prioritising workloads. You’d also wrap in the HR team to see if in-house teams have the required skills to complete this work and any extra support they would need.
While this cross-department project will allow Finance to make the ultimate decision, Data teams should be assigned from the very start of the project to understand the business decision their insights will be impacting.
Human Resources: reducing attrition rate and boosting motivation
As a HR manager, you’ll typically keep track of your staff attrition rate, the number of sick days and productivity rates. But, have you noticed that there’s a peak time of year where staff tend to hand in their resignation, sick days spike and productivity is lowest? Typically, January is the month many businesses struggle with these problems.
Working with your Data team, you could analyse data from surveys and exit interviews to find trends and suggestions for what issues lead to a staff morale drop. For example, if workload is really heavy before the year ends, and you know staff will be feeling reluctant to get back into the same working patterns from January, you have a strong business case to introduce flexible working or get staff involved in developing a perks package for the coming year to boost morale.
With all of these business scenarios, as you can see, the common denominator is workflow transparency and willingness to collaborate. If business challenges get turned into active projects for departments to work on with data teams as supporting resource, knowledge-sharing becomes easier as everyone is working off the same worksheet.
These workflows have been simplified – in reality, they can be tricky to manage via email and phone calls, requiring significant back-and-forth and experimentation. We are developing Brijj to help you structure your projects and allow analytics teams to easily present data to help you turn insights into business actions.