Why Data Needs to Be at the Center of Your Organization When data is at the heart of everything teams do, they will drive better decisions and business performance.

By Dean Guida

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

We've all been in a team meeting where creative ideas flow left and right — but they're overridden by the loudest, the most influential or highest-ranking person in the room. This 'because I said so' approach to decision-making doesn't do anyone any good. It overlooks team members' thoughts and ignores any input from crucial business data.

Data is essential to decision-making because it adds a neutral yet well-informed voice to the conversation. Nearly everything we do daily is influenced by data in some capacity – observing the cars around us before we change lanes on the highway or reading reviews before making a reservation at a restaurant. Why should making critical business decisions be any different?

The issue that many companies face isn't collecting the data – it's using it. We live in a data-rich environment where companies gather data about everything from sales and marketing to customer interactions. Still, over 70% of organizations are not using it to drive their everyday decisions.

The disconnect happens because only a few people hold the keys to the data.

Related: Using Data Analytics Will Transform Your Business. Here's How.

The power of democratizing data

In most organizations, data is currently siloed across executives and teams. The marketing team has access to SEO and social media data, the sales team has access to future customer engagements, and so on. And while this data is insightful for specific job functions and teams, it can also be helpful for other teams across the organization.

Data is too powerful in driving decisions to have gatekeepers. It's up to organizations to make data easily accessible to every employee at any time. By doing so, they're empowering employees to improve collaboration, do their jobs better and make more informed decisions that ultimately impact the bottom line.

Related: How Siloed Data May Limit Your Business Growth (and How to Prevent It)

Here are three ways organizations can bring data into the center of their business:

1. Turning every employee into a data scientist

Data has the reputation of being too complex and indigestible – unless you're a data scientist. But the truth is, you don't have to be a data scientist to draw insights from data.

There are numbers guiding performance for teams every day, such as how sales are performing, engagement on marketing channels, employee sentiment and goals being met. These are all data that employees understand and use to guide decisions in their day-to-day life.

There are also tools today that employees — even if they're not data experts — can easily tap into to analyze and visualize data. There will still be many instances where data scientists are needed, but data doesn't have to be entirely out of employees' hands. When employees see data as approachable instead of something to avoid, they'll be more conscious of using it.

2. Offering the full view of data to make decisions – right away

Data is typically inaccessible to many employees and all over the place.

In today's hybrid and remote world, teams use multiple workplace tools daily. Think about everything you do in a day and where you do it — there are communication tools, project management tools, dashboard tools, collaboration tools, job-specific tools and even employee tools. Because these tools exist separately, data lives separately as well. And this isn't simply data about what teams are doing within these platforms but the business data that is stored within each tool. It's this business data that is meant to drive decisions.

To effectively understand and use data, teams need one place to access and analyze every piece of data. Only with this big-picture view can they properly assess performance, identify trends and forecast opportunities.

Related: How to Use the Right Data to Make Effective Business Decisions

3. Creating a data-driven culture

Once there's a centralized location where all information lives and becomes integrated into everything teams do, organizations are on their way to creating a data-driven culture. While this won't happen overnight, the more employees see the power of data in collaboration, day-to-day tasks and decision-making, it will eventually come to exist at the organization's center.

With data front and center, organizations create a data-driven culture and a culture of ownership. This puts employees at the organization's helm and makes them feel more connected to the company-every win for the company is a win for them and vice versa.

Decisions should not be made solely by the smartest or loudest person in the room–this kind of decision-making can be detrimental to a business. Instead, collaboration and decision-making should be led by data insights. But to do this, companies need to bring data to the center of their organization by integrating it into teams' daily workflows and empowering them to use it. When data is at the heart of everything teams do, they will drive better decisions and drive business performance.

Dean Guida

Founder of Slingshot, CEO of Infragistics

Dean Guida is the 30-plus-year entrepreneur behind the enterprise software company Infragistics. Now he’s done it again with digital workplace platform Slingshot -- Guida’s first foray into tech-driven team performance.

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