I’ve been reading the latest publication from Verne Harnish, The Greatest Business Decisions of All Time, and was reminded of several recent client discussions – discussions specifically about data. I once heard from a CIO, “in God we trust … but all others bring data!” If you, too, have discovered that data can help you improve operations, have you overdone it? Or, to put it in the language of, Brad Smart, Topgrading is your data a “C” player that deserves to be replaced with an “A” player?
Think about it. The clients and teams that I consult with saw major productivity improvement in 2012 by replacing their “C” players with “A” players. The same is true of your data – moving to “A” data will help you more effectively execute strategy.
Here are the three indicators that it’s time to TGYD (TopGrade your data):
1. Data does not feel the need for speed.
I’ve worked with companies that were well planned strategically, successful in execution, and, had data only 24 hours before the competition. That’s right, just 24 hours. In today’s market, you need to use all the data at your disposal - now. Don’t rely solely on old school feedback from printed customer surveys, comment cards, word of mouth, and the like. Look for leading indicators that will tell you more quickly when you're in trouble. Examples could include using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter to interact with customers – and, to track what they say about you and your competition. Get your data fast – and then use it to leverage your resources…which leads to indicator number 2.
2. Data comes late to your meetings.
A good decision made too late is a bad decision. The effective CEOs and teams that I work with have fast access to easily understood, accurate dashboards statusing execution towards company and personal priorities. Timely data provides you the opportunity for leveraging business resources before it’s too late.
Many of the companies, large and small, have made bad decisions due to late data collection and/or reporting of the data. The more often your data points need to be refreshed (back orders, leads, returns, run rates, progress on priorities, key performance indicators, etc.) the more likely you’ll want your data automated. And, if automation is too expensive for collection of good, useable data – consider just one key metric in each area of your business and make sure it is current when making business decisions.
3. Your data has lost that “Lovin’ Feeling.”
When data is hard to get, people get frustrated, and then - they may begin to cheat. If your team is forced to go to multiple locations for data, then it may also be hard to verify the veracity. Don't make the data too hard to get and the value too small to matter. When team members have to e-mail spreadsheet copies back and forth, check a suite of MS Office applications, go to three different applications in the cloud, or send an e-mail request to get additional data to prepare for meetings, it won’t be long before they lose that lovin’ feeling. Ultimately, data should work for you, by allowing you to make sound decisions based on the right combination of factors, much like the right combination opens a safe. When you crack the vault of good data, you’ll reap the treasure load of great business growth and opportunity.
For more insight on measuring the right things, dashboards and bringing important data to your meetings that provide insight into your company - I suggest you read Patrick Thean's Book, Execute Without Drama if you have not already.