Ten steps to high-performance data

Organisations need to start by removing barriers to maximising the potential of data.

Data is the foundation on which a high-performing organisation is built, yet only 28 per cent are exploiting it to the full. This is according to research from Pitney Bowes across businesses in France, Germany and the UK. 61 per cent of these businesses are using data to increase knowledge on customer needs and 60 per cent to better understand customer preferences. Some (56 per cent) are using it to drive customer segmentation initiatives, and an equal percentage to fuel product and service innovation. But only half use it to track customer behaviour, and only 48 per cent to understand the customer’s lifetime value to the company. 

This means that less than half the businesses surveyed are using data as a tool for futureproofing and safeguarding their business, for identifying trends and predicting behaviours. Businesses openly admit they’re simply not making the most of this hugely valuable asset. Bridging this gap between what businesses know data can do, and structuring their operations so they are actually doing this, must be a top business priority for the year ahead. 

Organisations need to start by removing barriers to maximising the potential of data. Research from global technology company Pitney Bowes reveals the main barriers to be: 

  • Finding the right data to input, with 28 per cent citing this as their biggest issue
  • The ability to keep up with changing customer needs, with 26 per cent saying it was a barrier
  • Consumers consenting to sharing their personal data, as specified by 24 per cent
  • Rules and regulations prohibiting the collection of some data, found to be a barrier by 24 per cent
  • Having the right analytics tools and techniques, as identified by 24 per cent
  • Having the right culture in the organisation, with 23 per cent citing this as a barrier

Businesses must educate employees on the importance of accurate data and the value of precise analytics. And they must empower staff with the tools to input, manipulate, cleanse and manage the information they have access to.  

Here are ten steps for your organisation to achieve high-performance data so it can become a key business asset:

  • Careful preparation of data: A third of business intelligence professionals spend 50-90 per cent of their time cleaning raw data and readying it for input into a company’s systems. It’s hugely labour-intensive, but time spent preparing data for input means less time spent amending errors, amending inaccuracies or updating missing information.
  • Update your software: ageing legacy systems inhibit business performance – considering 90 per cent of the world’s data has been generated in the past few years, businesses need to make sure their systems are fit for purpose and have the compute to cope with the volume, veracity and variety of data we generate.
  • Integrate: make sure new software works together and integrates with existing platforms, and data isn’t stored or accessed in disparate silos. New software should complement current systems, applications and processes and make life easier from an operational perspective. This also enables an improved customer experience: it’s extremely annoying calling a business, providing all your details to one person then being put through to another person and having to repeat all your details. Every customer touchpoint across every channel should be available to everyone in the business who needs it.
  • Structure your organisation to optimise data opportunities: appointing a chief data officer sends a message to employees, clients and stakeholders that you take data seriously. Under the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulations in the UK, the appointment of a data protection officer will be mandatory for companies processing high volumes of personal data and good practice for others.
  • Introduce a data-driven culture: this won’t happen overnight, but employees need to know why customer information and its accurate management is so crucial, and understand their role in its importance – taking a customer’s mobile number when they call on a land line, or questioning an email address if the structure looks unusual. Here at Pitney Bowes, for example, we’re running a ‘Data Diamonds’ internal initiative in which employees describe how they use data in their role for a chance to win a prize. It shines the spotlight on the importance of data.
  • Join the dots: understanding the connections and relationships between different entities in a dataset is key to being able to extract meaningful insight and uncover accurate intelligence. As businesses need to store more and more data, innovative ways of storing it are being designed. A graph databases, for example, is an information powerhouse in which every entity has a list of its connections to other data, organised in a clear structure and accessible in seconds, so users can join the dots and identify connections and interactions. It aggregates and enriches data.
  • Visualise: there’s little point having access to valuable data unless you can understand it. Visual representations of data - detailed maps for location data, for Empower employees to collaborate: this will come from having a data-driven culture, but improving collaboration between business functions is key to optimising data. Consider a marketing team who require access to detailed analytics for their next campaign. They don’t want to request these analytics from the IT department and wait several months for them. They need to be empowered to access, own and manage their own data across fit-for-purpose tools, whenever they like.
  • Safeguard your data: not securing customer data is likely to result in huge financial and reputational losses, more so than ever now that new regulations such as GDPR and the Digital Economy Bill come into play and hold businesses to account for data protection – or negligence. Businesses need to manage and evidence consents and permissions, keeping personal data up-to-date and accurate.
  • Keep it real (time): Every 30 minutes, 120 business addresses and 75 phone numbers change, 20 CEOs leave their jobs and 30 new businesses are formed. Marketing automation tools help businesses stay on top of this change and enable real-time updates, driving faster decision-making and enhancing the accuracy and value of data.

In the Pitney Bowes research cited earlier, 86 per cent of businesses questioned in the UK, France and Germany are seeing business improvements as a direct response of the data they’re collecting. But organisations need to take steps to ensure this data doesn’t become cumbersome, meaningless, outdated and irrelevant.  It’s not about being data-driven, nor exploiting data, anymore – it’s about building in platforms and processes to keep your data clean and up-to-date so you can create a renewable cycle of extracting actionable insights, forecasting trends and behaviours, driving engagement and generating growth.  

Andy Berry, Vice President EMEA, Pitney Bowes Software
Image source: Pitney Bowes Software