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Celebrating the Freedom to Make Data-Driven Decisions The availability of cheaper, easier-to-use tools allows everyday users to have deeper knowledge of performance.

By Southard Jones Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The Fourth of July is about celebrating independence. Much like the freedom that we recognize and celebrate on that day, the freedom to make informed decisions using data analytics delivers organizations a new kind of independence that businesses everywhere are celebrating.

It used to be that companies were constrained by the need to rely on a team of data scientists who would devote a significant amount of resources to crunching data for high-level executives. This meant that the majority of decision-makers didn't have the liberty to analyze data to answer pressing questions. But now we can celebrate the possibilities of putting the power of data into the hands of more people whose job it is to grow a business.

Related: When Setting Prices, Ignore Your Gut and Pay Attention to Big Data

Think data-driven decisions aren't important for everyday business users? Think again. Imagine you are a marketing manager and are updating a group of executives on a recent product launch. You talk about how excited customers and prospects are and how the announcement generated buzz.

But what does your boss think? He or she hasn't learned anything of business value. The executive wants to hear about how your product launch increased web traffic, brought in qualified leads, closed more deals and increased revenue. When business users have the right tools they not only have the ability to answer these questions and fulfill corporate goals, but they're also armed with the necessary means to exceed expectations and expand business frontiers.

New tools are coming onto the market that are easy to use, speak business language (not data language) and allow users to make sense of data. By tapping into a uniform library of key business performance indicators, analytics software can automate the otherwise painful process of bringing disparate data sources together before answering vital business questions.

Having data cleaned and translated to ask questions about "lead-conversion rate' or "year-on-year revenue growth' enables executives and mid-level business users alike to align on metrics and inform decisions that move business forward.

To empower everyday users with data-driven tools, businesses must equip them with dashboards and a discovery tool along with uniform metrics that they can dive into. By doing so they give them the ability to answer important questions such as the costs and benefits of marketing campaigns and the financial impact of generating leads.

Related: How to Make Predictive Analytics Work for Your Business

Encourage employees to seek data-driven answers by offering incentives. If they can discover how to raise the lead-to-sale conversion rate, give them a bonus. By providing fast, easy-to-use tools, employees won't have to go to IT every time they have a question. By providing clear incentives, they'll use the tools to find new efficiencies.

The next step is to look to a new generation of cloud applications that offer affordable, easy-to-use solutions. Cloud tools eliminate the need for an army of consultants and other IT support staff. In the past, if you wanted to become a data-driven company, you had to hire an army of analysts, data scientists and other IT support staff -- it was a lot of work. It was easy to say that you just couldn't afford it because you were too small or too bootstrapped.

With the cloud, you open your web browser, log in and have access to tools based on consumer principles where you can make business-based queries. This reduces the friction between data-driven and non-data driven employees by having a single repository for all your data and business questions available to all.

Lastly, adopt early. It's easier than ever for growing organizations to integrate analytic tools into their IT infrastructure. The costs of the analytic tools are coming down and you don't even need to designate an employee or team of employees to maintain these solutions. As you customize your data toolbox to address questions facing your organization, you can reuse these queries as your business grows.

As data increasingly becomes a commodity for enterprises, new tools are giving business users in more organizations the opportunity to use powerful analytic capabilities to drive high-impact decisions. Spreading this freedom to business users everywhere means more prosperity for all.

Related: Big Data is Your Sixth Sense for Prospecting Sales

Southard Jones is vice president of product strategy at Birst, a cloud business-intelligence company. He was previously the vice president of products at SCIenergy and started his software career at Siebel, where he ran its performance management and workforce analytics product lines.

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