4 Ways to Unleash the Power of Data to Transform Your Organization Data blinders keep us focused on sales and marketing but oblivious to the many ways data can transform operations and even company culture.

By Asha Saxena

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many companies get caught in data traps. They focus so heavily on cost and survival that they end up using data as merely a marketing and sales tool. In doing so, they fail to realize the true power of data: It can transform every aspect of a business.

Expanding beyond the common uses of data can open up your company to reinvention, innovation and a more agile working style. When you apply metrics and dashboards to the brainstorming process, you use data to help innovate. When you utilize consumer behavior data in your accounting efforts, you turn lead conversion stats into profit forecasts. And when you use data to analyze where you're losing profit and productivity, you improve your operational efficiency.

These are just a few of the seemingly endless ways you can extend your use of data to grow every aspect of your business. To help narrow your options and get the most out of your expansion, here are four crucial things to keep in mind:

1. Bring back the big picture.

Always keep your company's big picture in mind when expanding your use of data. Maintaining perspective will help you make informed, holistic decisions. You'll also see potential obstacles more clearly and negotiate issues with increased agility.

Every month, ask one of your teammates to sit down with you and look at the numbers. Mak sure to switch teammates every month. This give you a different perspective on the company's performance while educating a team member on the goals and ideas encompassing the big picture.

Related: Are You Really Seeing the Big Picture?

2. Follow more than your customers.

Companies often become obsessed with understanding consumer behavior and forget that they really need to analyze their business from a 360-degree perspective. Data can be used to connect employee performance to metrics and develop a more informed and motivated workplace. When employees can see the data behind their performance, they'll have clearer benchmarks of success to strive toward.

You can also use data to improve your hiring process. As your startup grows, you'll need to hire quickly and interview scores of people. Establishing a data-backed scoring system will help you identify quality hires and avoid making the same hiring mistakes twice.

3. Don't keep your data under wraps.

In a recent Tata Consulting Services survey, respondents cited sharing information across company silos as the No. 1 challenge facing big data. It's easy to fall into the habit of viewing data gathering and analysis as a secretive process, but it shouldn't be like espionage. You're using it to improve your services and operations, so why not involve your customers and shareholders? Make innovation and growth visible parts of your company's identity.

Related: The Goliath of Big Data Meets Its David

4. Use data to develop.

One of the biggest data success stories of recent years has been Netflix's move from video rental services to content creation. The company made this bold decision after gathering large amounts of data and developing unique insight into real-time consumer feelings and reactions.

Netflix even uses data to help dictate the development of its original programming. The hit political drama "House of Cards" was created in direct correlation to consumer habits and tastes, which essentially guaranteed that the show would be successful.

Data should never be pigeonholed. Instead, it should be used to better connect your company. Break down the walls that exist within your organization. This will generate new perspectives, ideas and employee benchmarks. Your new level of connectivity will greatly enhance your company's camaraderie and potentially create a healthy sense of competition between employees as they measure their performance based on your new metrics.

Did you just realize that your company has fallen into a data trap? Luckily, it's easy to break free from its chains. Liberating your data will reveal just how efficient and innovative your business can be.

Related: The Balancing Act: Sharing Data Versus Guarding Trade Secrets

Asha Saxena

President and CEO of Aculyst Inc

Asha Saxena is Columbia University Professor and founder of Aculyst Inc. a healthcare big data solutions and advanced analytics services firm


Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Business Plans

She Wrote An 'Escape Plan' to Quit Her Job and Move to an Island. Now She's There Generating Nearly $300,000 A Year

"My detailed, step-by-step plan on how I would quit my job and move to a Caribbean island."

Business News

Google Is Mass Deleting Accounts This Week — Here's How To Make Sure Yours Is Safe

The company is reportedly removing inactive accounts on December 1.

Science & Technology

Police Issue Warning About iPhone's 'NameDrop' Feature

How to safely manage the iPhone's latest feature and understand how the technology works.

Business Plans

How You Can Use the 80/20 Rule to Unlock Success and Maximize Your Impact

Our success is determined by where we focus our efforts.

Business Plans

An Entrepreneur's Blueprint for Crafting a Pitch Deck That Wows Investors

Developing a great pitch deck is critical for obtaining business funding, with an emphasis on connecting with investors' objectives and preferences while stressing design, clarity and a passionate narrative.