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Data has been a very hot topic among clients lately. Specifically, I keep getting asked: "How can I create a strategy and plan around my data?"

Most people I talk to are working for companies that collect data at every turn of the supply chain. This data might come from heavy equipment machinery or e-commerce metrics or financial growth numbersthe point is, it's usually contextually diverse and there's a lot of it.

So when I'm asked, "how can I create a strategy around my data?" it often translates to: I know I have a lot of data and I know it can be useful, but how do I make sense of it all and put that information towards better business decisions?

Step one is getting all that data into one place. Step two, is laying something like Power BI on top of it, to query the data with real language and real questions.

The benefits of having your data in one view

Regardless of a company's industry, once you start adding more business units, acquiring other organizations, going global, etc., data organization gets complicated.

When you have companies that inherit several different ERP systems during acquisitions and have people around the globe, creating a sense of scale that actually means something becomes a challenge and a priority—especially in the enterprise space.

So, how do companies do that?

In our world, a big pivot point is the concept of common data servers and a common data model. We're trying to make data uniform and standard, so that it can be exposed and shared with different platforms.

One of the biggest problems we can solve is giving people the ability to have a homogeneous approach to data and share it appropriately across the organization, geographies, business units and all different things. Companies need a holistic view of their customers and a holistic pricing strategy to make decisions and drive the future vision of the company.

One of the biggest problems we can solve is giving people the ability to have a homogeneous approach to data and share it appropriately across the organization, geographies, business units and all different things. Companies need a holistic view of their customers and a holistic pricing strategy to make decisions and drive the future vision of the company.

In order to glean insights from data, you need to have it at your fingertips—or at least accessible all in one place. You don't necessarily have to host all the data, but you at least need to be able to connect to it.

When you have a conglomeration of different businesses and different systems, you need to be able to get just one view of what's going on so you can actually ask those intelligent questions and push business forward.

How to turn data into insights

Nobody loves tracking down the answer to a simple question in a long email thread—especially if that thread transcends time-zones and business units.  

My favorite part about deriving insights from data is the idea of self-service. Imagine a world where you can just type out a question about your company, the same way you would into Google, and get an answer based on pure fact, not to mention in real-time. It's a magical concept that's 100% realistic.

Take the example of a company that has its core business in the U.S., but also has complimentary revenue, multiple acquisitions and a global presence. We'll call it Company XYZ.

As Company XYZ grows and maneuvers into new business ventures, in new places, they need to ask, "Where have I done this before? What relevant experience can I pull from to attack my next problem?"

Most people won't have firsthand knowledge of all experiences and abilities of the mother ship when it's constantly growing and evolving. But employees are certainly expected to be able to get information about the entire company quickly.

Enter the traditional email flurry, maybe a few Skype meetings and a ton of back and forth. Throw in a time difference or two and you might be waiting 24 hours to get answers.

Now redo that scenario with self-service abilities. You can get a lot of the detail, understanding and view of an account, including what services they're using, when you can just "ask" the data. It makes it much easier for you and makes the stakeholders you need to respond to satisfied. 

This is also where you can make big—and accurate—statements like, "we have 74% of the market globally when it comes to this industry, so we're the lowest risk company to work with. We've have three-quarters of the market!"

What Company XYZ needs to be able to do is quickly download data, understand and overlay that with what they're already doing (perhaps in terms of geography or existing customer relationships), and start to get a holistic picture.

From there it's easy to see the white spaces and opportunities. Company XYZ can say, "we've now got this additional technology or this additional service, how can this help me differentiate against my competitor, who maybe has a really strong relationship with the people in this region, but can't match us holistically in terms of what we can bring to the table?"

These "overlay" capabilities are made possible through Power BI, for instance, or other data visualization tools.

Insights aren't just contained to growth efforts, the power of data that we're discussing is also applicable to current operations such as equipment performance on the production floor. You can start to respond to problems like machine breakdowns, or better yet, enjoy preventative maintenance calculations and discard the outdated "break-fix" model.

It might sound cliché, but the possibilities of data insights really are endless. Want to keep talking shop? Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

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