We are entering the zettabyte era. Is your business being smart with how it uses data?

By 2025, it is estimated the population will generate half a zettabyte every single day – that’s 100 times a trillion gigabytes. By understanding the amount of data humanity produces and how to leverage it effectively, businesses will have the ability to find more success in the modern age.

two industry workers analyzing interactive reports on a bright screen

That's a lot of data to harness but being data rich is worth little if you are knowledge poor. The ability of data to project and predict the behaviours of consumers and markets means it's become influential in operational optimisation and organisational decision making. If your business isn't taking its data seriously, is overwhelmed by information volume, or lacks the systems and skills required for analysis and interpretation, it may be losing ground competitively. Businesses can certainly start to correct its course by realising  the crux of successful data mining is not just the amount amassed, but how it  can be intelligently collected and converted into valuable, actionable insights.

So, what are some of the core characteristics of ‘data  smart' businesses?

Insist on quality in, quality out

Engendering data smartness is as much about how the  process is designed as how much data is ultimately run through it. A clearly defined outcome that is considerate of what key stakeholders want the data to do and measure, and for whom, should influence incoming elements from the outset. Each  business will be unique in its needs, but refining data points to minimise redundancy,  duplication and wastage helps focus investment of time, effort and ultimately  money on what unlocks knowledge. Ensuring the right people are contributing and data is being routed efficiently within the relevant architecture and related  analysis is also fundamental to a quality in, quality out approach.

Ask the right questions to integrate, articulate and optimise

With larger organisations using data in a multitude of  ways across their operations, asking the right questions before conducting  fresh analysis is important to ensure the data extracted addresses a real  business question, challenge or concern. Identifying and understanding a  business' key audiences for any analysis is also valuable so that context,  source integration, segmentation and visualisation can all be factored into  presentation of that information. This is a crucial, but often overlooked, step  in developing robust, decision-friendly findings tailored for stakeholder needs.  Optimising in line with a Define-Measure-Analyse-Improvement-Control process  can further help articulate sound scopes and hypotheses, dive deeper into data  trends and offer expanded options for action.

two gentlemen comparing reports on their laptop

Use insightful data to drive instantaneous decisions

Vital to the success of digital transformation is the ability to take immediate action based on trusted real-time insights. As digital technology is increasingly integrated into every facet of building and managing a business, the opportunity to access quality data and interpret it  instantaneously becomes commonplace. With the help of algorithms and decisioning tools, this means customer or client experiences can be shaped and enhanced with zero lag. Whether it's in the form of routing interactions, tailoring recommendations, facilitating transactions or offering various  protections, the timeliest of touchpoints driven by well managed systems return value to brands and consumers alike in the form of maximised economic and experiential exchanges.

Understand the importance of ROI (Return on information)

For a long time, 'mining' was the broadly used term  for the process of extracting raw elements of potential worth from mass data.  But that title is likely less accurate in today's world where advancements in  processing have determined information is rarely removed from its source for a  solitary purpose and then discarded. Instead, the concept of 'farming' has been  offered up as a more useful analogy. This title is supported given the  sustainable and recyclable nature of good data that benefits businesses most  when cultivated, cared for and co-opted to produce consistent yields rather  than booms and busts.

To ultimately secure a competitive advantage, it is  essential for organisations to learn how to exploit their data effectively to  win on two fronts – the expense of acquisition and the value of application. Ensuring  that companies and their employees acknowledge and understand the role and impact of data in their macro and micro work environments is crucial to its  successful harnessing and handling. Sharing rationales, outlining opportunities  across different functions and providing the right tools for intuitive  integration are all valuable. It's the investment in teaching, training and technical support combined that offers the best chance for acceptance and uptake of best practices.

Find out about the Strategic Data in Organisations Melbourne MicroCert from the University of Melbourne and hone the skills to investigate various ways organisations can design storage for data assets, such as data warehousing, and consider other key trends in information architecture for business analytics.