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April 15, 2011
Information Insight

Knowing is Half the Battle

Thirty years ago, your company was lucky if it had reliable sales data twice a year.

Fifteen years ago, you expected to learn big things from quarterly or monthly reports, likely produced in a huge binder and subsequently filed away in a giant filing cabinet.

Fast-forward to today and you may have years’ worth of personalized detailed data sitting in a dashboard on your company portal available to you in real-time.  You can probably track the exact path each visitor takes through your website, what device they are using to do it, and even where in the world they are at the time.  We have all become accustomed to a world where information is literally at your finger tips.  You can find almost anything with a mobile phone and 30 seconds.  The data for your business is more available than it has ever been.  Ask the right questions, hire the right analyst, or buy the right tools and you’ll have more data than you can possibly absorb filling up your inbox every day.  So how should someone make sense of it all?

Three simple steps can get you to the right information and allow you to start managing more effectively.

What are your goals?

Start with your organization as a whole and walk it down to your department or job.  We all do many things and while we do them for a reason, there are usually only 3-4 things that really drive the bottom line.  If your list is longer than 3 or 4, ask yourself which 3 things, done well, would make your year-end review the best it can be.  Chances are these goals are the most important ones.

Which information is relevant to those goals?

Now that you have 3 or 4 goals, identify the metrics that most closely track progress towards achieving them.  Don’t start by thinking about what you already know or what is possible to know; start with the simplest questions you can.

For example, if your goal is customer retention, start by focusing on what percent of customers last year were repeat customers this year.  Then you can get into the finer details of which accounts grew or shrunk, root causes of the changes you observed, and so on.

Now use the tools and people at your disposal to find the information you have identified.

What action can I take once I have this information?

Many people communicate that they are keenly interested in all sorts of data.  But those same people are often just as likely to LACK a plan of action once the data arrives.  Good data can be expensive and time consuming to capture, maintain and render.  Getting the tools, analysts, and time together to create the right metrics is never easy.  Once you manage to do so, don’t waste the effort by not acting on the information.

If the data was meant to make a strategic decision, then make the decision.  If you needed to know more before setting a future strategy, set it.

Finally, don’t fall in love with data for data’s sake.  A good leader knows when enough is enough.  In some cases, having 80% of the facts is more than enough to make the decision.  In others, you may need a lot of detail to meet your goals.  But know the difference, and remember that delaying to capture the facts MAY be a good decision.  There will always be more to know, but there may not always be a NEED to know it.

Kenway has helped clients set strategic goals, identify and capture useful metrics, and use those metrics to improve their business on many successful projects.  To learn more about how Kenway Consulting can help you follow these three steps contact us at info@kenwayconsulting.com.

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