Lately I have been having a lot of conversations with people who claim they want to be data driven. I say claim because when you get to the heart of it, they don’t really know what that means. Data driven really means, you let the data speak and you go off of what the data is telling you. A lot of people have a hard time with this.
Thanks to big data and data science, data driven is back in vogue as a buzzword. So I hear a lot of people tell me how data driven they are, only to go off with a strategy that they pretty much just made up by shooting from the hip. Now I don’t have anything against shooting from the hip, as long as you know what you are doing. But to do that and claim data driven, just makes you look silly in the eyes of those who know what data driven is really about!
Data driven is something very specific that when done right, is very powerful. Data driven means you use your common sense and intelligence to understand what the data you collect is telling you what is going on. A great example could be, your data is telling you that a certain product is trending. Or it can tell you what is the general perception of your brand. Or who is the real demographics of your product. You listen to the data and then act on it.
All too often what happens is, people say they are data driven because they are capturing all kinds of data. Then when the data tells them something they don’t like, they just dismiss the data and go with their intuition instead. Now if your intuition has a better track record than the data, that’s fine. But again, most people do not track their record of intuition based decisions so to claim your intuition is correct most of the time is more of an opinion than fact. And most studies show, your intuition doesn’t have a good track record.
It can be difficult to put your ego aside and let the data speak. Many people seem to fear they will become irrelevant if they do so. But that’s really not the case. Being data driven is not a flip the switch exercise. You are not handing your business over to the machines. First of all, someone has to come up with a system that allows you to collect that data, then interpret that data and that’s not easy! Why are Hello Kitty backpacks all of a sudden spiking in the middle of May? They data might tell you but for right now that’s more of a guessing game than a science for most companies. Someone still has to put the pieces together because most often the technology can’t reason that answer for you.
Being data driven is quite fun because it really does open up the world for you and your business. The nice thing about it is, you don’t need to be a Fortune 500 to be data driven. A hadoop cluster can be set up for a few thousands. In fact my first one cost $20k to set up. And with more start ups entering the market, the services to be data driven should go up in a short amount of time.
So if you really want to be data driven, let the data do some driving.