Why it is time all businesses became data-driven

There is no question that businesses are evolving to meet the challenges of the market.

Not only are they operating in a time of record inflation, ongoing general political disruption, and an energy price crisis, but they are also facing one of the most challenging hiring markets in years; it seems they are in a perfect storm.

While the shadow of the pandemic hangs over us, in addition to these broader political and economic struggles, many businesses still have to work unbelievably hard to survive or stand still – let alone grow. Such macroeconomic events have undeniably caused business owners and leaders to write, rip up, and rewrite business plans to pivot strategies or find new sources of growth (most likely on multiple occasions).

For those who have managed to furiously navigate choppy waters, keep their heads afloat, and look to the horizon, it might be data that provides the life raft. The problem is that many companies still don’t realise they have a data asset worth exploiting – or even the potential volume of it, which could contribute to identifying ways to find profitable growth.

The use of data to drive profitable growth is likely new to many – but this doesn’t mean it has to be challenging to maximise. Gathering insight from sales figures to understand which products and markets are driving growth or to predict future talent needs are simple ways to start. It is about considering what data you can access and the best way to interpret it.

All businesses are built on data – but the understanding of it can flummox some. However, across my career, I have frequently been the one to challenge whether an organisation is using data enough. More often than not, it isn’t.

We live in an age where all businesses can and should be data-driven. A report by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), now the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology, found that more than 80% of UK businesses now handle digital data, which is encouraging. However as many as a third of employees do not feel equipped to use or interpret it. Reinforcing this, data from NewVantage Partners in 2021 identified that only 24% of businesses had created data-driven organisations.

If you Google “benefits of a data-driven business”, hundreds of results and whitepapers appear, extolling the potential outcomes organisations could see. These results all whittle down to the same thing – helping organisations formulate new products, services, workplace initiatives, and trends.Given the market challenges facing us all, who wouldn’t want a little help? 

At some time or another, we have all wished for a crystal ball to help us predict our own and our organisation’s future, and data does just that. It has all the insights to identify growth opportunities and, dare I say it – profit.

But for data to be an enabler of success, organisations must know how to work with it.

Depending on the size and scale of your organisation, business intelligence platforms may be valuable, but even to appreciate the challenge you might be looking to overcome, having a member of the team (or several team members) who are data-minded might be an alternative.

Encouragingly, the future of data skills is in safe hands. Data from the British Computer Society (BCS) recently revealed that interest in computing degrees is growing more than other courses. According to BCS data, 92,980 18-year-olds applied to start computing degrees this year in the UK, a 9.6% rise demonstrating the sector’s continued appeal. The Society believes that increasing interest in the degree course was likely a result of the higher profile of AI and a realisation about the career prospects for computing graduates in areas like cyber security and climate change data science.

For those organisations looking to increase their data skills sooner, though, several programmes in the market can match you with a data scientist.

As the now old adage goes – data is the new oil. With its value likely to continually increase, those organisations that do not recognise its value will undoubtedly be left behind, allowing competitors to overtake them. With no sign of market conditions easing, now is the time to evolve. Not doing so could be devastating.

About the Author

Les Bayne is Chair of The Data Lab, as well as former Accenture Scotland MD and founder of business growth platform Alba Arete. Previously managing director of Accenture’s Scottish operations, Bayne recently founded Alba Arete, an organisation focused on helping Scottish businesses grow, and Scotland reach its full potential.

The Data Lab is Scotland’s innovation centre for data and AI. Through hubs in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness, we foster innovation through collaboration, build skills and grow talent, and champion Scotland’s data science community. We help Scotland maximise value from data and lead the world to a data-powered future.

Featured image: ©Quardia