We live in a data-driven world. And this year, more than ever, business leaders have seen the value of having access to real-time data to make smart decisions. And yet, never before has it been so difficult to forecast the future of the Canadian marketplace.
During a time of misinformation and uncertainty, data is proving essential for businesses to understand where their business is heading now, and in the future. Business intelligence helps organizations identify strategic opportunities, solve challenges, and build resiliency to ensure long term business continuity and recovery. We know data is important, but it must be managed effectively.
In our latest Insights On webcast episode we explored the most important pieces of data that lead to strategic decision making, how data is used to drive intelligence, and how to operationalize data to drive business forward. I had the pleasure of chatting with special guests Professor Mehmet Gumus, Academic Director of the Master of Management in Analytics at McGill University, and Gerhard Barnard, VP Finance & CFO Olympia Financial Group.
Below are my key takeaways on how businesses can turn data into decisions.
Be smart with data
There is endless data businesses can use to gain insights and visibility into how their organization is faring. The challenge is understanding which data to leverage and turn into action.
So where should businesses start? Mehmet recommends using data intelligence to understand what just happened, forecast what will happen, and decide what should happen. Looking at data this way allows companies to analyze historical observations, reveal hidden patterns and predict what will come next, which is essential as businesses look to continuously improve the performance and resiliency of their organization. Depending on what stage the business is in, organizations will want to customize the data according to their objectives.
There are many barriers to accessing data, Mehmet reminded us of the “garbage in and garbage out” principle – the importance of managing and validating data in a continuous fashion. If businesses do not have clean and accurate data, the results will be more damaging to the state of the business. Based on the limitations of data analytics, Mehmet noted businesses spend about 80% of their time vetting their data to ensure it’s accurate and valid. This is not sexy, but it’s a crucial step for leveraging business intelligence.
Prioritize the information
Prioritizing data allows businesses to identify strategic opportunities and build resilience within their organization. Gerhard advises starting with the end-user in mind – understanding who the stakeholder is and what their needs are. For example, a business partner is going to want to know how intelligence can serve customers better while the accounting department may want to look at spend data. The information will vary across industries and companies, but it’s important to collaborate and establish a clear understanding of the stakeholders’ needs in order to prioritize the relevant information.
The finance team is uniquely positioned to add value to stakeholders at every level with data intelligence. There is no shortage of data out there, from financial operations to client and stakeholder data, the finance team is responsible for connecting the dots between this data and communicating it. We talked a lot during our discussion about the importance of presenting data in a way that is streamlined and efficient. Business technology and intelligence tools enable teams to visualize monthly reporting, operational data, cash flow, and more through interactive dashboards, ultimately providing the data to the end-user in a simple and streamlined way.
Protect your data
We can’t have a discussion about data without talking about security. It is paramount to ensure your data is protected. Especially as you start pulling information from various sources, publishing it across different devices, it is critical to have a safety net to back up your data in the event of a data breach.
Not only should businesses be looking at their internal security protocols, but they need to consider the providers they are working with as well. A lot of the times, information is not residing within organizations as it used to traditionally. Now data is sitting in the cloud and businesses will need to do their due diligence to ensure organizations have the proper credentials in place to protect data.
With so much data and information out there, it can be difficult for businesses to determine what data to focus on and how to drive their organizations forward. But by aligning the data with business objectives, leveraging finance teams, and utilizing business technology, organizations can manage their uncertainty with data and take back control of the state of their business.
Thank you again to Mehmet Gumus, Professor and Academic Director of the Master of Management in Analytics at McGill University, and Gerhard Barnard, VP Finance & CFO Olympia Financial Group for sharing their insights with us. Stay tuned for more details on our next webcast.