How you can help your employees successfully become data-driven

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Being data-driven is harder than it sounds. The constant flow of data flooding in from all quarters significantly outpaces the ability to keep your head above the current. Such a vast amount of data can be overwhelming to employees, but it’s a priceless asset to any enterprise. And no matter their role, every employee needs the right data at hand when there’s a decision to be made. Can employees in your organization access data quickly and understand it easily? Or is your data inaccessible and incomprehensible to anyone but analysts and data scientists? Data no one can leverage is called “dark data.” No matter how valuable your data might be, if it’s gone dark it’s going to waste.

The importance of data-driven decision-making is reflected in a 2022 survey of Fortune 1000 executives, which found that 97% of the participants were investing in data initiatives, and 92% were seeing “measurable business benefits” as a result. Even so, “achieving data-driven leadership remains an elusive aspiration for most organizations,” the report concludes. Just 40% of the respondents say they’re managing data as an enterprise asset, only 27% say they’ve become data-driven organizations, and a mere 19% believe they’ve built a “data culture.”

Three ways every employee can become data-driven 

Can a mission to make every employee a data-driven decision maker possibly succeed today? New AI-powered SaaS technology offers three reasons to believe it can: a no-code interface, self-service design, and advanced automation. You might call this platform a data-analyst-as-a-service.

Consider a typical scenario starring a non-technical marketing manager who needs answers to a few key questions before launching a new campaign. The manager shoots an email to the business intelligence team, then waits for a response. When it doesn’t come, the manager jumps on a call to repeat the request, and waits again. Data arrives eventually, but the manager isn’t sure how to interpret it, so another call is made to request clarification, and more waiting follows. After weeks of delay, the marketing team still doesn’t have the data it needs. The manager has no choice but to rely on intuition or reschedule the campaign launch. Unproductive and inefficient from the start, the entire process is a study in stress and frustration.

This scenario is all too real for many businesses. Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, in its “Overcoming Barriers to Data Impact” briefing paper, reported that 83% of the business executives it had surveyed understood “the importance of turning data into actionable insight” — yet only 22% thought they were actually doing it. “While companies aspire to broad-based data access, tools and technologies are usually built for technical experts,” the analysts wrote. “The education and skills development required to turn everyone into a data expert lags behind the needs.”

Help frontline employees get the data-driven answers they need in the moment

When corporate culture forces frontline employees to depend on analysts and other data gatekeepers, it’s almost impossible to make data-led decisions. With a no-code, AI-based solution, however, non-technical managers gain both a user-friendly tool, and self-service access to data. Software automates the process, working around gaps in the manager’s technical knowledge, and makes execution simple. Employees get the answers they need in the moment, so they can make decisions based on hard data without depending on third parties. 

With automated self-service technology, any frontline employee can produce insights without analyzing data, or even understanding how data works — it’s as simple as building a Zapier integration. Every employee who needs data can get it, without hassles or delays. Once employees stop depending on data professionals, the impact is significant: accelerated sales and marketing impact, and higher velocity of customer success, along with increased efficiency and productivity, and decreased training time, stress, and uncertainty. 

Just as an automated self-service solution helps employees produce data-driven insights, it helps them distribute insights as well. Employees can propagate revenue-impacting insights by sharing them across the enterprise. This aspect of the self-service platform compounds the value of each employee’s findings, which can be iterative and reused for various business objectives. The platform enables employees to deliver insights seamlessly by running on top of business apps their colleagues already use, like Salesforce, Hubspot, and more, to completely streamline the decision-making process.

Lose the dashboard, and let your data tell the story

After analyzing, optimizing, and synthesizing masses of complex data, the data-analyst-as-a-service translates the results into a human-readable language, in sentences everyone can understand. While dashboards might be interpreted differently by different people, sentences let the data tell its own story. “It’s hard for a dashboard to explain why something is happening,” notes Miro Kazakoff, an MIT Sloan lecturer on communications and data storytelling. “If you want people to make the right decisions with data, you have to get in their head in a way they understand.” 

Business leaders are accepting the need to give every employee the power of data. A recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey found that business executives “across the board strongly believe that both work quality and productivity will increase as more data-based insights are made available to frontline workers.” If we want frontline employees to be data-driven “at the point of need,” we must arm them with “the right data, insight, and technology to enable faster, more distributed, and higher-quality decision making.” And that is the most effective way to make sure your most valuable asset empowers frontline employees to accelerate business execution and never shoot in the dark again.

Kobi Stok is the CEO at Forwrd.

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