It’s not enough to collect data—you have to put it to use
Consider a hospital that books appointments three weeks out because of a poor grasp on its exam room capacity. Or a nonprofit that struggles to achieve its annual fundraising goals despite its broad base of supporters. Or a financial institution that is unable to attract more than a fraction of its wealthiest clients’ estates.
Historically, such business challenges have been viewed as operational, process and logistical matters. Moving forward, however, the most effective solutions to these types of issues will likely be data-driven—especially as the volume of information collected about customers and clients continues to increase.
“At this point, most organizations have very good data practices in terms of governance, maintenance, storage, privacy and general security, but they really aren’t leveraging that data,” said Philip Beaver, director of Daniels’ Master of Science in Business Analytics. “Data-driven decisions should be part of an organization’s overall strategy and decision-making process.”
For the hospital, that means converting its manual exam room scheduling process to an automated system. For the nonprofit, that means tracking the steps that typically move a low-level donor to a high-value benefactor. For the financial services firm, that means understanding the client journey that results in additional investments.
“So many companies are doing great things with data,” Beaver said. “But so many of them are sitting on it and thinking they’re doing enough.”
As a professor of the practice in Business Information and Analytics, Beaver has helped Daniels students appreciate the power of data since 2010. In that time, the volume of data generated by businesses, governments and other organizations has grown exponentially. Meanwhile, the disciplines of data science and analysis have emerged as critical components of corporate strategy and planning.
According to Beaver, the coming decade promises further refinement of existing analytic solutions as “internet of things” technology continues to generate mountains of raw data to digest.
But perhaps the biggest challenge for organizations poised to benefit from data-driven solutions is leadership that is resistant to innovative thinking.
“A lot of corporate leadership nowadays is from a generation that made gut decisions throughout their careers. Those decisions worked and as a result, they’ve been successful,” Beaver said. “Gut decisions are still important, but you’ve got to pair them with analytics because if you don’t, you’re missing an entire part of the decision-making process.”
One of the best ways to sharpen data savviness is through education, such as the course Beaver teaches via Daniels’ Executive Education program, Building a Data Driven Organization. The three-day workshop covers the current landscape, methodologies, modeling tools and best practices in business data and data-driven decision making.
“The course will not turn you into a data analyst in three days, but it will make you a smarter data consumer so you’ll ask better questions,” said Molly Robertson, a program developer within Executive Education. “It’s ideal for a leader who is not a data person but needs to understand the data landscape to better support decision making in his or her organization or business.”
She adds that such knowledge will allow for a data-driven strategic vision, heightened awareness of the value of an analytics department and increased intelligence around what the analytics department is doing.
“Data analytics is no longer a luxury, it’s an imperative,” Beaver said. “And if you’re a business leader who makes decisions and you’re not leveraging data to help inform those decisions, then you’re done.”