Data as Storyteller: Three Ways to Turn Your Analytics into Action

Here’s a scenario to consider: A Data Analyst is told to prepare a report. She has reams of figures ahead of her, and she’s a pro, so she sifts and sums, weaving through the numbers and finding precisely what she needs. The whole organization is captured in spreadsheets.

What she doesn’t realize is that within her detailed report is the potential to change the business. The data she’s gathering aren’t just numbers — they’re the story of the company’s employees, its customers, and how it’s changing over time.

Businesses sometimes generate reports for their own sake, as if data reporting is just a to-do list item to check off. But these reports are a waste if they’re not action-oriented. Continue reading

3 Critical Pieces of Data Groundwork for Modern Business Strategy

Few companies realize the extent to which their business strategies depend on data — until it’s too late.

Think about it like a road trip. The business strategy tells you where to start, which route to take, and the destination. The data strategy tells you the condition of your vehicle, how much gas you have, and where the gas stations are along the route. Sure, you could successfully make it to your destination if you ignore the data, but your success is much more likely if you view the whole picture.

Company leaders put a lot of emphasis on business strategy and not enough on data strategy. Even when leaders track key metrics, they often measure the wrong ones when they lack data strategy behind their decisions.

Mistakes occur because businesses operate in a culture that is not driven by data. Too many executives only appreciate the value of data strategy after they try to use their data; then, they forget the lessons they learned when they plan their next move. Without proper data governance, companies cannot generate the intelligence they need to design and execute successful business strategies.

Execution at the Cost of Data Governance

Executives like to get things done. They worry less about processes and technology than they do about results. Unfortunately, that mindset hinders their ability to deliver on the expectations they set for themselves, their teams, and their companies.

Some companies, like Amazon, have freed themselves from this limited mindset. They no longer see data as a checkbox on a list but as a valuable asset. When a user adds a movie to the shopping cart, for example, Amazon’s data says that person is more likely to buy another movie in the same transaction, so the website shows comparable products on the next screen. These types of insights alone boost Amazon’s revenue by more than 30 percent every year.

Beyond the shopping experience, Amazon’s anticipatory shipping model predicts when and where people are most likely to buy products; then, it uses supply chain automation to keep those products in warehouses nearby. Amazon also uses data to set prices, combining information on demand, competitor pricing, and multiple other factors to decide when to discount and what to feature.

Retail giants like Amazon are ahead of the game because they constantly interact with customers. If they don’t innovate or if their data strategy is misinformed, they suffer major financial consequences. Soon, even businesses that rarely interact directly with customers will face the same choice: create a better data strategy or perish. To put data strategy at the core of your business strategy, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Establish Stronger Data Governance

When no one agrees on the definitions of data elements, the pool of data becomes untrustworthy.

One of my customers in healthcare wanted to figure out the optimal treatment for a specific kind of tissue injury. When this client began its research, it realized that some physicians categorized this type of mass as a lesion, while others called it a mass. Different terminology made it impossible to compare the efficacy of different procedures on the same problem.

To create common definitions, put together a committee of leaders who understand the technology and importance of the data to the operation. This data governance committee should go through important KPIs and name the factors contributing to them so the company can measure everything the same way.

Data governance must always keep business goals at the forefront of the process. Data for data’s sake helps no one, but data aligned with concrete objectives improves the odds that the company will achieve its goals.

Struggling to agree on the best approach to data governance? Turn to a tool, like Informatica Axon or EnterpriseData Catalogue, or consult a third-party service.

2. Scrutinize Data Quality

Old or inconsistent data indicates that an organization lacks a solid data strategy. For B2B sectors, bad data is especially troublesome. Rates of data decay in these industries can reach 70 percent per year, and research indicates that the average sales team loses around $32,000 annually in pursuit of faulty prospect data.

Avoid bad data by evaluating the database for things that look unusual. If a doctor’s office normally sees 20 patients but shows 30 entries, that office should look at common factors like appointment times and medications prescribed to weed out the bad entries.

The most permanent solution to this problem is automation technology. Several tools empower companies in various industries to audit their databases and scrub bad entries. Current leading solutions in this area include Informatica Data Quality, Melissa DATA, SAP Data Services, Oceanos, and Listware.

3. Implement Master Data Management

Without a master record, data becomes fragmented. Companies spend unnecessary time to log and track multiple records when they could save themselves the headache through master data management.

Say, for example, a hospital is doing a marketing campaign. Contacts have first, middle, and last names. One employee can’t find an intended target, so he makes a new entry that includes a middle name when his original target was in the system without one. Now, the company has duplicate records for the same person, and workers will continue to log data in multiple places until someone corrects the issue.

Master data management arises from proper data governance. The data governance team comes together to determine policies, people, and processes and then selects one record to be the “golden record” to believe when two records disagree.

The best tool to assist companies in this area today is Informatica MDM. Thanks to its modular approach to master data management, Informatica MDM can scale with the company’s data, ensuring information remains accurate.

Business strategy should not precede data strategy. The two should work in harmony, with business strategy determining what data to collect and with data strategy using that data to inform the business strategy.

Remember, successful business plans are like road trips. You could take off without a destination or neglect to check your gas gauge, but it would be better if you used all your resources to ensure your success. Follow these tips to put data strategy at the heart of your business strategy to make more informed, successful plans.

3 Critical Pieces of Data Groundwork for Modern Business Strategy

5 Ways to Establish a ‘Quick Win’ Culture in Your Company


We all want to win big. We want to create a success story — something that crosses boundaries, gathers speed and lasts a lifetime. But a success story can’t be formed in one go; it needs to be written line by line and chapter by chapter.

You can use quick wins to write your success story in a way that connects your employees to their own progress within your company. In fact, recent research has found that when people see incremental progress in their work (and celebrate those small successes), they’re more productive, engaged and creative.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Before winning the Nobel Prize in 1962, Francis Crick and James Watson were just two scientists trying to build a DNA structure. But along the way, they found their daily attitudes influenced by the amount of progress they’d made. This phenomenon — which researchers later deemed the “progress principle” — asserts that “making progress in meaningful work” potentially increases motivation more than any other factor.

By leveraging the progress principle, you can help your employees feel connected to the larger success of your company, which, in turn, will encourage them to work harder and be more personally invested. But how can you bring a culture of quick winning into your company? Here are five things you should be doing:

1. Lead with transparency.

It’s your responsibility as a leader to make sure the “hows” and “whys” of each quick win are communicated and understood. People may be dubious of change, especially when it involves a newfound love of performance metrics. They may feel their their every move is being tracked and judged.

So, show your team how the changes you’re making circle back to efficiency and profitability. Make sure you fully explain each new metric as you introduce it, and above all, prove that the “quick win” process works before you start expanding it.

Related: 4 Ways Innovative Companies are Celebrating Their Employees 

2. Test quick-winning within one department.

Test out the process of measuring and celebrating quick wins by starting with one department within your organization. Start with your financial team or your marketing team, for example. This will let you set up your dashboards and get into a rhythm in a controlled environment. Then, you can observe how the small victories within that department contribute to larger wins over time.

3. Identify your agents of change.

You shouldn’t be leading this powerful “quick win” machine by yourself. Rather, appoint a collaborative team of quick winners to work behind you. Identify teammates who get excited about change and are eager to improve company processes. They’ll become your best ambassadors — special agents you can trust to use the first few trial wins to build a “quick winning” culture.

4. Create layered projects.

Establishing a “quick win” culture in your team is possible only if you can set up your projects with multiple levels of wins. Each business goal you lay out needs to be comprised of layers so your employees can easily see their incremental progress.

Make each layer visible by employing analytics dashboards and data-visualization tools. And communicate each quantifiable progression to your whole team so you’re building a healthy sense of competition and collaboration as you go.

5. Use quick wins to tell a story.

Giving your teammates the chance to pause and celebrate after small victories allows them to start building a narrative toward their goals. This recognition can create momentum and meaning, which will create not only the internal story that will propel your team forward, but also the story that you will tell the world.

Use “quick win” milestones to build your company’s story. Host celebrations, and record the evidence. Perhaps you can hire a photo booth as HubSpot did to celebrate its brand journey at its annual INBOUND conference.

Remember: Success stories are made in small increments. Start telling yours by introducing a “quick win” culture to revamp the way your team works and enact positive change in your entire organization.

5 Tips For Keeping A Pulse On Your Tech Team

142099709-copy-426x242When most people think about the departmental structure of a business, the tech team is often regarded as the strange stepsibling. It serves a purpose — though not everyone is entirely sure what that is — and it often works independently from the cohesive family unit.

But for your businesses to lead its industry, you have to change the perception of the tech department starting from the inside. As a leader, this means communicating the tech team’s role in the company’s big-picture goals to incite their participation and unify the organization.

Empower your tech team

Tech teams are enablers; they make things happen. Once tech employees are educated on a company’s mission or a project goal, they can take that information and transform it into something other departments can see, understand, and even monitor. But your tech team can’t build a foundation of information for your business if it isn’t given the necessary tools to do so.

Many companies don’t include their tech teams in every aspect of their business, which creates a division between tech and other departments. What’s worse, tech departments are commonly misconceived as being cost centers — draining the company of resources — rather than revenue centers. But a properly assimilated tech team can be incredibly impactful in building revenue when it sees its role in helping the company accomplish larger-scale objectives.

Here are five steps business leaders should take to redefine their tech teams and maximize their growth potential:

  1. Establish a vision

A clear understanding of a company’s vision is vital for both departmental and overall success. Unfortunately, the tech department is often left guessing at the company’s overarching goals. Make sure your tech team can comprehend and articulate your company’s biggest aspirations. Team members should also be able to see how their work moves the needle.

  1. Facilitate team engagement and communication

Members of the tech team should be involved in every stage of success. Too often, companies stress the five pillars of success (strategy, methodology, technology, implementation, and adoption) but only involve the tech team in the last three pillars. Placing tech employees in executive positions at every level of business will ensure they’re involved in the strategy and methodology conversations as well.

  1. Incentivize performance

Tie your technical team’s compensation to performance metrics and the company’s performance as a whole. That way, members will feel invested in the end goals and be motivated to create tech that performs and improves the company.

  1. Embrace change

Disconnected employees might see the tech department as a burden on the company’s resources. But the progress it makes should excite employees. Help everyone understand how the tech team works and how innovation generates revenue and grows the company to shift this mindset.

  1. Open communication

Once all of these steps are complete, open up communication lines between tech employees and all other departments — especially those in leadership positions. Make sure any jargon or confusing language is explained so everyone can understand what’s going on.

Amplify growth

Heightened competition in the business world has made it crucial for companies to forge a close partnership with their tech teams. Companies that align their tech teams and metrics and embrace a technology-enabled business structure position themselves to not only increase innovation and revenue but also become industry leaders.

Take Zappos, Netflix, and Facebook, for example. These companies use technology to generate revenue by actively investing in employee ideas and rewarding tech teams for uncovering bigger and better business concepts. Similarly, Wells Fargo started a financial tech accelerator program that presents tech companies with real business challenges to solve in exchange for a minority share investment.

Another great example is the Google X Rapid Evaluation team, which has given tech teams the power to discover and test new products and ideas along with the necessary time to work through the inevitable kinks and flaws. As a result of this trust and teamwork, Google X is responsible for projects including the driverless car, Google Glass, high-altitude Wi-Fi balloons, and glucose-monitoring contact lenses.

As more companies begin empowering their tech teams and incorporating tech employees into all levels of the business, new innovations and fresh approaches to business will emerge and transform the traditional business structure. As a leader, you can develop a relationship with your tech departments that will build a foundation for your entire company to solve problems, improve communication, and increase revenue.

This Data Expert Shares the Secret to Growing Your Company With Big Data

Data can be powerfully helpful or powerfully destructive to your business. Learn from a data expert how to make data useful.

CREDIT: Getty Images
CREDIT: Getty Images

Big data, data analytics, data management–in the past, these were areas of concern for enterprise companies. Today, both large and small companies can benefit from the extensive increase in data gathering. There is data available that can answer almost any question we care to ask. That is if we can access it in a way that makes sense. Many companies purport to know how to harness data for successful growth, but there are lots of phonies.

During a recent episode of my podcast, YPO 10 Minute Tips From the Top, I interviewed data expert Asha Saxena, the CEO of Future Technologies, Inc. Saxena’s company has been busy offering products and service in data management for healthcare, media and finance clients.

Saxena, a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), explained how companies are struggling to take advantage of the abundance of data today. If managed well, data can be powerful. Used incorrectly, it can take you down a rabbit hole or eat up precious resources. Here are Saxena’s tips on how to get what you need from data so you can grow.

  1. Ask the right questions.

Just collecting data gets you nowhere if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Saxena recommends setting up a plan with specific questions that you want the data to answer. “Collecting data will not magically turn into more sales. The data that is collected is only as good as the questions are being asked around it,” says Saxena. “When collecting data, companies must start by asking questions and what they are trying to obtain and solve from the data.”

  1. Collect data relevant to answering the questions.

Once you actually have the questions in place, then it is crucial to collect data that is relevant to answering those questions. There is simply no point in getting data that will not help you solve your problem. “There is so much data available more easily and companies are collecting everything but don’t know what to do with it. The companies that are growing are those that understand the data correctly and not collecting volumes for the sake of collecting it,” adds Saxena.

  1. Analyze the data to find the answers.

Once the right data has been collected, companies must analyze the data in order to find the trends that it reveals about the questions you asked. “For the data to be useful, it has to all tie together,” she adds. “A company must look to see if they have collected the right data so ‘it’s not garbage in and garbage out.’ This will help to adopt and embrace the data.”

7 Rules to Live by When Your Startup Hires Remote Tech Employees

The remote revolution has settled in. Working virtually has become a common lifestyle for tech employees, giving them the flexibility to travel, choose their own base, dictate their own pace and virtually collaborate.

As the leader, however, it’s hard to juggle a remote team and make sure your employees are still putting their best foot forward. How do you set expectations, build a united company culture and train new employees who live in different states?

Not everyone thinks it’s possible. Yahoo, for example, has refused to join the remote revolution. “We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together,” said CEO Marissa Mayer in a company-wide memo. But Yahoo’s extreme approach left many employees feeling stuck.

So how do you get the best of both worlds? You can keep your team connected and enjoy the freedom to hire tech talent from anywhere. Here are seven tips on how to do it — from my global office to yours:

1. Hire strategically.

My entire company is built on tech talent, so we have to hire strategically. If something goes wrong, we rely on our tech team members to act as emergency responders. Dispersing them across the country often puts them closer to our clients, which helps us provide quick, personal support.

You can also hire “pockets” of people in the same city. That way, small groups are within meeting distance of each other for greater connectivity.

2. Put communication first.

Chief information officers commonly cite lack of face time and communication issues as the biggest challenges of dealing with a remote workforce. Remote employees can sometimes get so absorbed in their own productivity that they forget to prioritize emails and questions from the team.

Remote shouldn’t mean incommunicado. Make it clear to your teammates that you expect them to join conversations, video chat regularly and keep their calendars transparent and updated at all times. Check in with each other every day via Google Hangouts or GoToMeeting.

3. Provide the best tools.

Your remote tech employees have the talent that you desperately need to stay competitive. Give them the best possible tools to maximize their abilities. This will make your scattered team feel more in sync. Use cloud software such as Draft or Google Docs to enable your team to edit and share documents from any location.

4. Set up a network of contact points.

Part of the challenge of a remote workforce is maintaining a DevOps mindset and keeping processes evolving between departments. Streamline communications by matching up each remote tech employee with someone on the operations side. Both employees will be able to use each other as points of contact for advice and feedback.

5. Provide a clear structure.

As the leader, every task you assign should come with clear directions, obvious expectations and a process to follow. Avoid veering off process at all costs; if you absolutely must, have a conversation about it beforehand.

6. Set expectations.

Be completely transparent about what you expect from your remote tech employees. Share team performance metrics to help everyone feel connected. If you want a DevOps mindset, these metrics should be integrated with your operations team as well.

7. Enable your team to travel.

Flexibility also means giving remote workers the ability to come together. Account for travel in your remote employees’ contracts, and be clear about the expenses you’re willing to cover. When something goes wrong or an idea needs to be hashed out in a snack-filled room, having the capability to move employees is a valuable asset.

With all the innovative solutions available, there’s no better time to explore the possibilities of a virtual tech workforce. You just need to be willing to invest in the right tools and work hard to create a culture that will be stronger because of its flexibility.

How to be a champion of data-driven decision-making

The Big Data era has carved out its groove and is here to stay. But for some reason, executives continue to feel pushback from skeptical managers who are reluctant to incorporate data systems into their decision-making processes.

The most agile companies employ analytics to drive strategic decisions, and organizations that refuse to adopt a data mindset will rapidly fall behind.

Whether managers are afraid of being replaced by machines or are just plain lazy, modern businesses simply cannot survive without collecting and analyzing data.

As the head of your company, it’s your duty to create a data-driven culture that empowers, rather than alienates, your management team.

Overcoming the objections

Some managers scoff at Big Data and think their years of hard-won experience trump mathematical models, while others view data as a crutch that weak leaders rely on when they can’t come to their own conclusions. Some managers, on the other hand, just simply don’t want to add what they see as an extra time-consuming step to their decision-making process.

Help your managers overcome these misconceptions by showing them how data enhances, rather than replaces, their performance. Display how data works in concert with their already capable analytical skills by double-checking their instincts against the numbers. And debunk their time-consuming complaints by showing them how analytics systems are easier than ever to utilize and provide leaders with real-time data in an organized, efficient format.

Data empowers department heads to adapt on the fly and quickly respond to dips in sales or engagement based on numeric trends and insights. Your leadership staff can create powerful predictive models that will immensely help your teams improve their processes, hit more targets and ultimately make more money.

Putting data in your DNA

A data-centric culture isn’t possible unless the entire executive suite buys in. Bad things happen when only a handful of people are making well-informed decisions. Once everyone at the top is on board, it’s time to convert the rest of the crew.

These three strategies will help you incorporate a data mindset into every level of your company:

  1. Incentivize data. Tying tangible employee bonuses and raises to data adoption will get employees looking for more opportunities to use data on a regular basis. In performance reviews, ask them how they’ve recently used data to make better decisions for their departments or customers. Reward them accordingly.
  2. Lead by example. Send out regular email blasts that detail trends and efficiencies you’ve uncovered through your use of data. Show your employees how they can use those trends in their daily work, and encourage them to find their own.
  3. Be transparent. Also openly discuss every negative trend you’ve uncovered through data analysis. The more your team understands data’s role in day-to-day operations, the more you’ll see a cultural shift toward regular data usage across departments.

Big Data supports clear, adaptable, logical and future-minded thinking, and the ideal data-driven environment strikes a balance between human and non-human input. In fact, proper data analysis often requires a human perspective to determine whether you’re drawing valid conclusions. Your managers know the stories the data doesn’t tell.

Make sure you tell your managers that data analysis will not replace them; it will just make them better.

Listen to Your Gut But Check Your Assumptions and the Data

Even as a self-professed data nerd, I still find myself itching to go with my gut when I’m faced with a key decision. It’s only natural. We humans sometimes struggle to set aside our fragile pride and accept that another source of information might trump our intuition.

In business, it pays to put aside pride. Making a decision that you know is backed by data gives you confidence in what you’re doing, takes away the pressure of leading your team into the unknown and creates a culture of trust between you and your employees, customers and stakeholders.

People often think they’re safe from assumptions when they’re dealing with data. But assumptions have a funny way of weaving their way into every aspect of your business. They can gradually steer you in the wrong direction but you can you regulate your assumptions to strike the perfect balance between intuition and data. The first step is to be aware of your assumptions so you can judge when they’re misguided or just plain wrong.

Here are four common assumptions in business and ways to combat them:

1. Your employees are fulfilled.

The areas where business leaders most commonly allow their assumptions to take over involve the human elements of business.

It’s easier to assume that your employees are feeling happy and fulfilled than to regularly evaluate how satisfied they actually are. But without a healthy dose of data, all these factors can change overnight. When you find yourself in one of these human areas, take special care to look at data before you let your assumptions do the talking.

2. Everyone wants to work for your company.

You need to believe in the desirability of your company, but you can’t simply assume that your work culture is second to none. If you’re struggling to fill roles and have no idea why, check the data. Use it to unveil the biggest turnoffs potential employees see when they interview at your company so you can refine your recruitment process.

3. All potential customers need your expertise.

You want to believe that you’re the best fit for your target customers’ pain points and that customers who wanted your last product will want your newest one, but use data to track customer satisfaction and pay attention if it says otherwise. Ignoring facts will prevent you from finding new revenue streams and innovating.

4. Regional profiles are always true.

You’re not the only one who has trouble sorting assumptions from facts. Your industry — and everyone within it — operates on assumptions to a certain extent. Much of the information you receive from external sources is based on assumptions.

Be aware of others’ assumptions, just as you’re aware of your own. If there’s a trend in launching businesses in a certain city on the East Coast, don’t automatically assume that the location is going to be right for your business. Do your research. Data can help you discover pockets of opportunity you were unaware of.

Accept that data might know more about your business than you do or that it can lead you to understanding your audience’s desires better. Matching human intuition with the data patterns to back it up will make for more confident decisions. In fact, a recent study evaluating the leadership behavior of 50,000 business leaders found that those perceived as having poor decision-making skills were deemed weak at fact-checking, confirming assumptions and gathering additional information.

You want to be a good decision maker for your team, right? Hunt and gather all the information you can to inform the decisions you make. The more you know, the better your decisions will be. That is key to pushing your startup from shaky success to a definite winning streak.

The Next Big Thing Isn’t BDaaS – It’s How You Use It

At one time, only the corporate elite could afford to collect and crunch millions of data points to optimize their businesses. But with the advent of big data as a service, companies of all sizes now have the chance to take part in the big data revolution.

Although the need for data isn’t new, the amount of information and the type of intelligence it can provide looks starkly different than it did even a few years ago. In fact, the same amount of data influx that was achieved over the past 50 years is now achieved every two days.

If you’re serious about data, you need a way to store, manage, and analyze millions of numbers that will point your business in the right direction. As your company expands, your data stockpile will also grow exponentially. Wrangling a large volume of data early on will free you to focus on the creative growth of your company. And with the help of BDaaS, you can better understand the data you’re collecting, how to set it up against your strategy, and how to hone your competitive advantage through data.

But with so many outsourced tools, cloud providers, and consulting services available, you need to diagnose the state of your company before prescribing the right BDaaS solution.

To make data work for you, start with these six steps:

  1. Ask Whether It’s the Right Time

It’s important to honestly work through this point before moving forward. You need an overall strategy in place and should feel comfortable with your long-term goals to get value out of BDaaS companies.

If you are in survival mode or still struggling to stay afloat, you’re probably not ready to invite external support into your organization. Recent changes in management or overloaded employees are also telltale signs it’s not the right time. You need adequate time, money, and human resources to devote to proper adoption.

However, if you’re hungry for growth opportunities, don’t wait to invest in data management.

  1. Weigh the Cost of Hiring Internally vs. Outsourcing

If you have the budget, consider hiring an internal data expert. Of course, having a dedicated data manager on staff will be valuable, but make sure to weigh the cost of hiring someone internally versus externally to see whether you can justify the expense.

  1. Focus on Where You Excel

Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of thinking they need to wear every hat. But undertaking your data management requires constant care and attention. To find the right BDaaS balance, focus your energy on what you do best, and leave the data duties to trusted advisors. An external company or expert will have a fresh perspective that can help you build the most efficient system possible.

  1. Be Transparent About Your Current Data Landscape

You’ll need to express the status and trajectory of your company to the big data consultant you choose to hire. The advisor should seek to understand the current state of your business and your data organization methods to conduct a status report and determine areas of weakness and opportunity. Carefully audit your current data management process, and be prepared to communicate the ins and outs to your partner.

  1. Don’t Let Current Data Go to Waste

A good outside firm will be able to innovate and manage your data practices without scrapping your existing structure. If you’ve started a business, chances are you’ve established at least some data foundation. An outside company should help you construct an initial strategy based on the foundation you’ve built, work with you to develop a new process for collecting and housing data, determine any need for new tools and processes, and work with your team to adapt and adopt these new processes. Be sure to choose a company that integrates your existing data into the new structure.

  1. Be Prepared for Disruption

There’s always a level of risk involved with manipulating the structure of your business. A new data management system will inevitably upset your daily processes as your team adapts. It will take time and patience before you feel fully integrated and comfortable with the systems, but the insights you gather will be well worth the initial growing pains.

Imagine thinking about your company’s huge data expanse and feeling a rush of excitement instead of nausea. With BDaaS, you can now confidently collect and store data knowing your company will extract valuable insights from it. Don’t treat your valuable data store like a collection of random numbers. Monetize this information through BDaaS, and you’ll begin to uncover new ways data can set your startup apart from the pack.

FTI Catalyst offers healthcare professionals improved organizational analytics, enhanced decision-making, better strategy implementation, and improved overall operational efficiency. You founded Future Technologies Inc., a business analytics company, in 1996 and then developed FTI Catalyst, a pre-built data model specifically geared toward healthcare analytics. What has contributed to your overall growth and expansion into the health space?

Asha: FTI works across a broad spectrum of industries, and as the company grew, we noticed an ongoing greater need for data management. This was especially apparent with our clients in the healthcare industry. Their industry changes so rapidly, so we created a flexible tool that leverages data to measure hospital performance and create new revenue opportunities. This strong data management system also helps them monitor their margins and enables them to receive real-time information regarding the strengths and weaknesses of their establishments. What are some of the biggest barriers business leaders face when trying to create value from data?

Asha: Business leaders today, in healthcare or in any industry, need to be more agile than ever before. New data assessment sources are popping up all the time; leaders should assume that their competition is proactively staying ahead of the curve and using these tools to become even more profitable. If they don’t follow suit, their companies will undoubtedly fall behind.

Leaders also face the need to effectively consolidate and analyze complex data as quickly as possible. Data is at its most useful when it’s easy to digest and used in real time. Raw data is typically delivered in huge, disorganized piles; leaders need tools that help compile and present it in a helpful format that encourages well-informed decisions. How does your company help others use data to formulate and communicate well-informed business decisions?

Asha: FTI Catalyst offers healthcare professionals improved organizational analytics, enhanced decision-making, better strategy implementation, and improved overall operational efficiency. It does this by distilling complex healthcare data into pre-built data models that crystallize KPIs into user-friendly dashboards. This integration of data and delivery of analytics is designed to serve business decision makers across the entire establishment: service lines, nursing units, and financial executives.

FTI Catalyst’s enterprise-level solutions create daily awareness of trends and variances that are typically unattainable. By linking operations, finance, quality, and staffing, executives and managers can now intervene with a higher level of confidence regarding cost overruns, bottleneck avoidance, and patient satisfaction and safety.

Equipped with more than 40 customizable, ready-to-use dashboards, FTI Catalyst’s balanced scorecard approach permits users to achieve organizational transparency and rapid speed to value.

FTI collaborates with FTI Catalyst users to help integrate data from disparate sources into our pre-defined data models. In the end, users have access to a best-in-class set of dashboards that can easily be implemented across their entire organizations. We also provide ongoing advice on how to further build upon these tools. You speak regularly at conferences and serve as the entrepreneur in residence at Columbia University. What are some of the most important messages you try to communicate during these outreach activities? 

Asha: I’m passionate about data and what it can tell us about our businesses. I don’t think people realize that we’re living in an excellent time to launch a company. Methods for collecting, storing, and analyzing data keep getting cheaper and cheaper, and the effective utilization of these methods will lead to the discovery of new revenue streams and create a foundation of solid information underneath startups.

In my presentations, I primarily give tips and takeaways on how business leaders can take the first steps toward seeing huge ROI from an investment in big data. I talk to them about the collection process, how they can best monitor data, and how they can act upon the stories their data tells them. What are some of the biggest trends and issues you foresee in big data this year?

Asha: I think big data is going to continue to make strides toward improving organizational productivity — specifically in the healthcare world. Hospital executives will be able to better oversee facility operations such as discharge management, length-of-stay trends, and admission sources. All of these efforts will improve staff satisfaction and result in higher-quality care for patients.

I also think data sharing is going to play a huge role in the coming year. Companies will continue to create stronger relationships with customers, and we will all feel more informed about the services and products we pay for. What advice do you have for would-be entrepreneurs when it comes to using data to their businesses’ benefit?

Asha: Before you even approach setting up a system for monitoring and collecting data, always go back to the strategy behind what you’re doing. Establish a vision and central points of focus before rushing into an investment in data infrastructure. You should be able to clearly articulate where you want to see more value created in your business, why you’re heading in that direction, and what you hope a better data infrastructure will accomplish for you.