As business professionals we all consume, manage and store data every day within our roles, but how much to we actually understand it and use it to make intelligent decisions about the future of our operations? As a business leader, decision making is right up there as one of your main functions, and the buck stops with you. so, are you making these decisions based on data driven facts or on best guess scenarios built from unreliable sources and manual processes that belong in a bygone era?

Clearly some of us will have a more hands on responsibility about how data is managed within the organisation, and will already use various software, processes and best practice to share the information needed to run the day to day. Others, however, only get access to data sporadically and within limited timeframes which can impede accurate decision making.

These decisions we make often affect large volumes of people and thousands of pounds worth of revenue. The key to making choices you can be proud of — even in times of stress or crisis as we’ve seen throughout 2020 & 2021— is data. This has already been true for years, with data management and analysis becoming central to general operations, improvement/growth and identifying variables involved in building your strategy for the future. But it’s been ramping up steadily and will only increase in importance as we head into 2022. 

We’ve recently formed a partnership with Technology Chiefs, a thought leadership platform that talks to key figures in the technology space, with a mission to connect today’s CIOs & CTOs with Future Leaders by providing a platform of insights, learning and experience. Their most recent interview is with Shorful Islam, a technology leader with over 20 years of industry experience in data analytics, having used machine learning during his PhD before the term data science was popularised. With knowledge of advanced analytical and statistical techniques, and data science technologies, he has helped some of the world’s largest companies with their data strategies and built predictive, prescriptive, and operational models that answer fundamental business questions.

Shorful’s top priority today in his current role as CEO of Be Data Solutions, a data strategy, engineering and analytics company, is, in his own words: “Helping companies understand the value of data and how this could be core to their operation. Helping them really explore where the value lies and how it could transform their business.”    

Now that’s a pretty far-reaching statement and some operations professionals may say “yes that’s all well and good, but how do I apply that high level thinking to real, hands-on activity?”

We believe it’s easier to break this down into some key focus areas.

No1: What is it that you need to measure and why?

Get this wrong and you’re off to a non-starter. How many times have you sent surveys, run reports, emailed them off and never known why you’re doing it and if it actually leads to anything? Most businesses are guilty of doing this at least some of the time. Lots of juicy data just sat there doing nothing. Or, the other version where an operations team are merrily working away on the latest reports, blind to the fact that there’s huge error in the setup and they’re actually making decisions based on flawed data.

We need to get better at focusing our resources on what’s important, finding a way of gathering that data reliably and in a timely manner and then actually doing something with it.

We can start with the obvious one: customer satisfaction. Yes, we’re all tired of the incessant demands for us to complete a survey or write a review, but psychologically, everybody enjoys feeling heard, wanted and included. Applying this to business and your customers, you cannot focus on yourself or make the pursuit of profits all-important. Instead, you have to focus on listening to the buyers, figuring out what they really prefer or need and giving them a sense of insider connection. As customers gain more and more options about where to place their money, becoming more customer-centric through data should be a top priority. With those pesky surveys, demographic information, online reviews and other touchpoints, you can figure out how to serve your buyers in incredibly specific ways and predict what they will want. This will also make it easier to hone your marketing messages for greater effectiveness across different groups.

As a good example, consider Netflix, who looks at customer data to see which kinds of shows and movies are most popular. Then, it finds and buys similar scripts, assuming that if its members liked the original style, then they’ll probably like new, similar ones, too. This simple, data-based method helped Netflix increase its business value by more than $50 billion last year (source: as people consumed entertainment by the bucket-load through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taking this down to more practical steps, let’s look at a few hypothetical scenarios.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce business you’ll probably want to measure:

  • Sales volumes by period. Why? So you can plan your buying, stock holdings and resourcing levels.
  • Completed purchases as a % of shoppers. Why? So you can see how attractive your offering is.
  • Returns as a % of sales with reason. Why? So you can understand where you have product and/or service issues and do something about it.

Taking a completely different sector, what about if you’re a tool and plant hire business? You’ll probably be interested in:

  • Where your tools and equipment are. Why? So you can see what’s available and if there are any indicators of theft or misuse.
  • How much use each item has had. Why? So you can schedule in maintenance and reduce the risk of failure whilst increasing the lifespan.
  • Being able to have real-time visibility of your assets. Why? To be able to react in real time to any security or safety issues.

Both these scenarios require the implementation of technology, real-time access to data and a proactive action plan to feed improvements to the business process. Which leads us nicely onto the next point.

No2: Being Proactive

Good companies are always responding to their customers, whether by handling returns, answering product questions, adding features based on feedback, or something else. But the best companies are proactive rather than just reactive. If you gather the right data and analyse it properly, you can actually determine what your buyers are going to want or need (i.e., anticipate trends). The better you do this, the better advantage you can get over your competitors - and the easier it will be to get out ahead in innovation and to capture early market share.

Jeff Bezos stands as a great example for this point. The leader of Amazon believes that identifying customer needs lets you work toward something that doesn’t even exist right now — enabling you to actually invent the future. This becomes all the more important when you consider your business values and ethics. What you do with customer data influences building not only a business, but also a specific vision of society and the larger world.

Shorful Islam backs up this point is his interview with Technology Chiefs. When asked what skills a technology leader should develop, one of these was Innovation. He stated: “We need to be careful not to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. The world is changing, so the same data models will not work, we need to use different tools and different approaches to truly extract value from the data.”

Shorful also highlights some key technology that will drive innovation: “Computer vision, specifically the ways it can be embedded into consumer technologies. We have had facial recognition in smartphones for a while now, but as computing power continues to grow and be embedded in all sorts of devices, I can see a whole new world of capabilities.  Visual is such a dominant sense for us, imagine if your car is analysing you and can determine that you are tired, then recommend or even mandate a break. 

No3: Resilience, productivity and a happy workforce

Most organisations want to operate lean and kick out any unnecessary fluff. They want high yield at low cost, and they want workers to be happy. Not to difficult, right? Not if you have access to the right data.

Specific metrics can reveal areas of waste or points to improve, as in some of the examples above. These help you figure out how best to structure resources. They can also reveal whether candidates will be a good fit or whether employees really are satisfied. If you use data to create more robust processes, innovate better customer experiences and identify potential pitfalls, this should in turn create a happy, productive workforce.

Successful companies are those that prioritize data as a way to define and create positive company cultures resulting in resilience, productivity, and satisfaction. As leaders continue to navigate through the Covid-19 pandemic and stay operational in the face of an increasing number of world issues, data will become even more precious for establishing an inspirational business culture and a secure grounding.

Need to revamp your tech? Talk to us about our IoT and asset tracking solutions that can help you get ahead of the game with an initial risk-free proof of concept route through to fully customised and support services which integrate with your existing IT infrastructure.