With data, sometimes less is more

Kevin Slatter, managing director of G2 Data Dynamics, explains why too much data can be a bad thing. It’s not what you have , but what you do with the information that counts, he argues.

Kevin Slatter
Kevin Slatter

While it might sound odd for a data professional to suggest that too much information can be a bad thing, businesses can and do run the risk of drowning in data.

Corporations, especially multinationals, can gather such a wealth of data that they may struggle to work out the best way of dealing with it. There may be the added problem of the organisation not having a dedicated data role internally, and even if someone does oversee the database there are the perennial – and hard to answer – questions that emanate from the boardroom: does data sit within IT or marketing, and how do we drive value from our data?

A lot of these issues can be bypassed by outsourcing to a consultancy, so that the data is dealt with externally by experts who can help drive profit from the customer information available. However, one of the mistakes companies frequently make is a failure to work with the supplier on setting clear KPIs for the data. In other words, what does your company actually measure and what do you do with the data you have on your books?

It all comes back to our old friend best practice. Put simply, the in-house team and their consultants should be joining together to work out which bits of the data are most important, and how it can best be employed to ultimately add to the bottom line. We have recently completed a project – or rather Herculean task – for a client that necessitated a complete overhaul of the way they used their data.

Having been engaged by this company for the best part of a decade, we already knew the amount of information on the table and worked with the team to determine how to optimise it. The main issue was that senior management did not have a 360-degree view of how their marketing campaigns were performing across many markets, and country managers were not reporting on forecasts in a unified way – causing a massive administrative headache and, doubtless, a waste of untold thousands of pounds.

Ultimately, by spending several months shaping the data and carving out a new way of working that streamlined forecasting and reporting across all the major markets in question, the client has seen not only an uplift in ROI from marketing budgets, but also a vastly improved reporting process, from country to board level. In effect, this new view has totally changed the way the whole company thinks about and uses its data.

The point is, it’s all too easy to take a laissez-faire attitude towards the data at your disposal. Not only will this result in your data decaying more quickly, but you could also be missing out on huge amounts of revenue, or losing money hand over fist if you take a cavalier attitude towards the information that underpins your budget-making decisions. Instead, work out how your data can best be employed to answer your key business questions and ultimately add to the bottom line. Is it time to take another look at what you do with your data?

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