March 21, 2023

Stop wasting your data — and start acting on it

It’s likely your organization has access to plenty of meaningful analytics that can provide critical insights into your business, customers and competitors. But do you apply your data findings to make insight-driven decisions?

When you don’t act on your data, you waste resources, miss revenue opportunities and decrease profitability. Yet many businesses continue to let data sit idly by without taking action.

  • Nearly two thirds (68%) of data is never used. Survey respondents identified the top barrier to using the data as making collected data usable.” 
  • And despite nearly all employees (87%) recognizing data as valuable, few are using it to inform decision-making. 
  • Only 25% of surveyed employees believe they’re fully prepared to use data effectively. 

Nearly 2/3 of data goes unused.

Source: Seagate

Think you could be doing more with your data? Let’s explore what actionable data means and what roadblocks may be preventing you from unlocking its full potential.

What makes data actionable?

Ask yourself the following questions about the data at your workplace:

  • Accurate: Is the data accurate and reliable? Are there any errors or inconsistencies that could affect your insights?
  • Timely: Is the data up-to-date? Is it reflective of current business trends and conditions? 
  • Relevant: Is the data relevant to your business goals and objectives? Does it provide insights that are valuable for decision-making?
  • Contextualized: Is the data presented in its proper context? Does it take into account other relevant data to create a complete picture?
  • User-friendly: Is the data presented in a way that is understandable and user-friendly? Is it clear what actions to take?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of the above, your data is not actionable. You’re leaving valuable insights untapped and missing out on revenue opportunities. 

Why is my data not actionable? 

Let’s dig into the most common challenges to understand what’s stopping you from making the most of your data.

Poor data quality

You can’t act on bad data — or at least you shouldn’t. If you base your actions on data that is inaccurate or outdated you’re going to lead your organization astray. Poor data quality could also be holding you back from gaining meaningful insights

Check your reports for accuracy and timeliness. If you find inconsistencies or outdated data, you need to improve your data quality before you can act on it. 

Not relevant to business goals

Your data needs to be tied to your company’s goals and objectives. Otherwise, you’re just collecting data for data’s sake.  

  • According to McKinsey, “Between 30-40% of the reports that businesses generate daily add little to no value. Some are duplicative, and others go unused, with the result that considerable resources are wasted.”

30-40% of daily data reports add little to no value.

Source: McKinsey

To generate actionable data, you need to create a clear connection between the data you’re collecting and the objectives your organization is working towards.

Lack of context

When it comes to data, context is everything. Without it, you could be guilty of data cherry-picking — the tendency to choose only the most beneficial data points to confirm your existing ideas. This misrepresents the truth and risks faulty actions and decision-making. 

  • According to Forrester, “Siloed insights teams typically overfocus on low-value customer behavior measurements such as site visits or email opens that, without context, don’t provide sufficient insight for building true customer connection.” 

Data benchmarks are an equally important part of building context. A stat alone isn’t useful without benchmarks or additional information to understand what it means. 

  • For example, if you have 95 opens on a recent email blast, how do you know if that’s good or bad if you don’t have a benchmark or comparison? 

To act on your data, you need to use benchmarks and look at it in context to see the bigger picture.

Not user-friendly 

Many sellers and marketers lack the technical skills and resources needed to effectively use data to inform their decisions. In fact, over two thirds (69%) of business leaders say a lack of data skills stops employees from using data effectively in decision-making. The result? Data ends up being used incorrectly — or not at all.

  • Three quarters (74%) of employees report feeling overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data, impacting their overall performance. 
  • 36% of surveyed employees state that they will find an alternative method to complete a task without using data.

36% of employees will avoid using data to complete a task.

Source: Accenture and Qlik

Your data needs to be human-first and easy to understand for sellers, marketers and other non-data professionals to easily apply findings and guide their work. 

Time to take action  

If you don’t have actionable data, you need to figure out what’s holding you back — and soon. Take a close look at your reports to understand what your data is missing. Whether it lacks quality, relevance, context, simplicity or all of the above. Wasted data means wasted resources and wasted opportunities. 

Check out our previous article “Why you’re data-rich and insights-poor” to dig deeper into why your data isn’t working for you.