Not even 20 years ago, “collecting data” was something few companies did. Nowadays, people talk about everything they will do with big data. But back then, companies didn’t even care about small data.
Data is exploding. And it’s becoming more complex and diverse by the day. With the explosion of the internet, ever-growing points of customer interaction, transactional systems, social platforms, and all other sources of data, the sea of data continues to proliferate. Data is created everywhere—with every mouse click, finger swipe, electronic scan, digital imprint—you get the gist.
Over the past few decades, the data evolution has been gaining speed. Companies started with just collecting data. Then, they began storing data. But then what? All this data led to a challenge: What in the world are we going to do with all this data?
The world of data has been due for a change. Data has been under lock and key, only accessible by a small number of analysts or data scientists. This was like having a handful of tech-savvy miners slowly chip away at a massive data gold mine.
Small, technical teams had limited bandwidth. Confining data access to just these few analysts meant companies weren’t making the most of their data. Plus these analysts weren’t close enough to the business to know what everything meant or what questions to even ask. The world needed tools that made data accessible to salespeople, marketers, recruiters, and all knowledge workers—not just technical analysts.
This stream of events triggered a data revolution. Systems and tools like Tableau democratized data, empowering a larger swath of business users to have conversations with their data and answer their own questions.
Yet the data saga continues.
Even now as organizations evolve their data strategies, there is a new challenge. Now we track absolutely everything. There’s an overwhelming amount of data, and it’s easier than ever to collect, capture, and track that data, whether it be in transactions, emails, calls, texts, tweets, LinkedIn posts, Slack conversations, surfing the web, you name it. Every click, every word, every keystroke is a data point that likely contributes to valuable patterns or meaningful insights.
We’ve moved from data reservoirs to data lakes to data oceans. And people literally can’t keep up.
People have analytical tools, but they don’t even know what questions to ask. They don’t know where to start. Suffering from analysis paralysis, teams fall back on opinions and hunches, as it has become far too difficult to harness the value in the massive deluge of data.
So what do companies need to do now to distinguish themselves as truly data-driven organizations?
1. Promote reality-based visibility. Data access alone isn’t sufficient. Because data resides everywhere, it’s harder than ever to collect the full version of the truth. We need to make it easier to create a single source of truth that isn’t dependent on people manually entering data into systems themselves.
2. Leverage AI. The human brain alone does not have the processing power to process this immense volume of data — but artificial intelligence (AI) does. Plus, with data evolving and changing so rapidly, humans literally can’t keep up with envisioning all the questions that could potentially be asked. Next-generation AI and ML (machine learning) can help—they can turn unprocessed data oceans into actionable and meaningful business insights at scale.
So, here are four questions to help you determine whether your company is a truly modern, data-driven organization:
1. Have we put the data lockdown behind us?
Data lockdowns have gone the way of the dinosaur. Employees are smart and capable. That’s why we hired them. Why would we limit them from doing their work without access to the information needed to do their jobs? Of course, we need to be safe and secure. You can’t give everyone access to everything. But we do need to provide our employees with the right data at the right time to get their jobs done.
Every time someone has a question, the answer can’t be, “go find one of the very few highly technical people in our company who has access to the data”.
Step one in becoming truly data-driven is to give people the right access to their own data.
2. Do we have software that empower people to answer their own questions?
Access alone isn’t enough. It’s baffling. Companies collect all this data and even give people access, but then have only a small army of folks who can operate the systems that generate the answers.
People want and deserve data self-service. We need to provide our teams with the ability to have interactive conversations with their data. To do this, empower your people with a product or platform that enables them to explore, interrogate, analyze, and ask questions to their data in a self-sufficient way.
3. Are we leveraging cutting-edge technology to ensure maximum visibility?
Consider your CRM. It’s supposed to be the single source of truth for customer data. But customer interactions happen beyond your CRM. And your CRM relies on manual updates from salespeople entering data by hand.
Manual data entry is tedious and laborious. It’s difficult and time-consuming. When you rely on humans as your primary data collectors, you open yourself up to inconsistencies, subjectivity, and an incomplete view of reality.
Data-forward organizations leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to ensure they can see the full picture. Cutting-edge AI and ML tools collect data points from everywhere, ingesting and collating comprehensive data to create full visibility into what is really happening.
4. Are we investing in autonomous AI to serve up prescriptive insights?
In addition to capturing data in a more effective and comprehensive way, next-generation AI can provide guidance and propose calls to action. This allows companies to accelerate time to insights and lead their people down the right paths to significantly improve productivity by more fully tapping into their data assets.
At Gong, for example, where I’m President and COO, we’ve developed technology that does exactly this. Our software provides a Reality Platform that automatically collects all customer conversations and interactions, across calls, web meetings, emails, Slack, texts, and many other apps. The platform also analyzes the customer data, makes observations, and even assists with recommended next steps, like sending emails at opportune moments in a sales cycle.
Data-driven companies democratize access, empower people to answer their own questions, provide maximum visibility, and invest in AI that can autonomously provide guidance and insights.
It took the earliest homo sapiens almost a million years of evolution to start walking upright. It’s taken only a few decades for modern homo sapiens to go from zero data to data oceans and data overwhelm.
That’s pretty fast. Yes, we are in the midst of a data revolution. This revolution is happening regardless of how fast you move.
Data-driven organizations have a huge competitive advantage. They have a head start. So what are you going to do? Suggest you jump on the data train now, as it is moving at lightning speed with or without you.