As growth leaders, we will be waking to a world with fewer resources and businesses desperate to grow again once we get past the coronavirus pandemic. And despite the global hardships that will be felt by many, in our struggle to regain our financial footing we will have a very valuable resource that previous generations did not: data and data science.
When used well, data science will help direct scarce resources to the right opportunities and efficiently drive growth. I am convinced this will be a big differentiator versus previous recoveries of this magnitude.
Over my career, I have consistently encountered inefficient and counter-productive practices in data-driven decision management and have written about them often. They are paralleled in the crisis today. Below are three issues I would like us all to think about when we leverage data science to rebuild the national and world economy.
1. Customer Data Hoarding
Companies collect so much data that many are “drowning in data.” If you have no idea of the value of what you are collecting, then it is digital garbage.
We were led to believe that AI and data mining would help make sense of the data. It does to some extent, but more often it leads to head-scratching conclusions. We can’t leverage what we can’t understand.
As a data-driven consultant, I am amazed at how much time is spent sifting through data just trying to make sense of it all before any valuable insights can be generated. Going forward we cannot afford this luxury. If there are 10 gallons of fuel in the tank, we can’t spend five gallons trying to figure out if the engine works. However, when it comes to mining company data, we often do.
2. It’s About Qualitative, Not Just Quantitative
We can’t be slaves to the data we have. Collecting the right data is often cheap and easily done, if time is taken to plan. This means that measurement strategy can’t be a retrospective exercise. Too often, I have engaged clients in the post-mortem analysis of very important projects. In many cases, my team is often limited to the data that is available and not the data that was needed. Critical answers are sometimes left unanswered. This is a waste of time, resources and most importantly, valuable information.
3. Data Is Not the Solution, It’s the Tool
We must regularly remind ourselves that data does not solve problems or create opportunities. Rather, brave decision making solves problems and creates opportunities. Data is a valuable tool that can only inform the decisions we need to make. It can help lower the risk and provide valuable insights. Sometimes, collecting more data before acting can be wise. Other times it can also be the delay in action that leads to disaster.
What is happening today has no parallel in recent memory. While the 1918 flu pandemic had similar infection rates, the world was a different place then. Today, we have advanced tools and technology to aid our recovery.
Data science will be one of those important tools, especially if we collectively decide to use it to its true potential. As a result, I am hopeful that we can come out of this faster than we realize.