90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years and this year alone we will create enough data to print a stack of books that would stretch from Earth to Pluto and back more than 10 times [1]

Data is now being collected on myriad of devices from cars components to website clicks. It’s staggering to consider exactly how much information is being created in today’s wired world.

The move to the cloud, coupled with many data stores now being made publicly available presents incredible opportunities for organisations that can leverage this data and find a way of creating a competitive advantage.

We are well and truly in an age where data-driven decisions are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but are in fact a real reality. In a report by Mckinsey [2] it’s estimated that retailers could increase operating margins by as much as 60% if they used big data properly.


Can your company really become data-driven?

The reality is, however that very few organisations are in a position to leverage this golden opportunity. Many simply have too much unstructured data locked in proprietary data stores and no plan to find a way of distilling into something that is actionable. They have put this problem on the ‘too difficult pile’ and that is where it’s likely to stay.

For smaller, more agile organisations, the problem is not one of ‘too much data and no plan’ but instead, their challenge is in answering the question ‘what data do we want to analyse and how can we create a plan to give us competitive advantage?’

The problem is by no means an easy one to solve and will require an organisation to invest time and money in developing a strategy and implementing their data strategy.


How Yo!Sushi use data to drive decision making

In an article published in ‘Managing Big Data’ [1], Yo!Sushi (a British based company that specialises in delivering sushi to customers using the Japanese style 'kaiten' conveyor belt method) explained how their operations team meet each morning to discuss the previous day’s trading, which they then compare against budget, the previous week and the same week a year ago. The team are then able to quickly develop plans for each of their 68 restaurants. Yo!Sushi have created a data-driven organisation that gives them incredible insights into how their business is performing. They are able to identify patterns that affect their staffing levels which allows them to expand and contract their cost base in line with anticipated changes in demand. They also track customer habits and can change their pricing model, product lines and stock levels in order to take advantage of this.

Whilst it’s clear that Yo!Sushi have invested significant resource into the understanding of their business and they are no doubt dealing with millions of rows of a data per day, the decisions they are able to make are based on very few data points that are presented to the right people at the right time.


Why companies are not data-driven

Over the last 10 to 15 years the advances in technology have lead to a huge increase in the number of software solutions that are helping companies to manage their data - we are well and truly placed to take real advantage of the on-coming ‘big data’ tidal wave.

Despite these advances many solutions fall short of actually delivering an end-to-end solution. Instead the user is left with all this data, nicely collected, cleansed, processed and stored in the cloud - ready to be consumed.

At the point of consumption which is traditionally in the form of a report or dashboard the user is often presented with a confusing mass of non-related, badly presented and downright confusing rubbish.

From reports that contain hundreds of data points (great for analytics, but not so useful for strategic decision making) to dashboards that seem to use every known visualisation and colour (great for the report developers CV, but not so useful for strategic decision making), the Internet is awash with great examples of how not to design Dashboards.


The importance of relevant data visualisations

Creating Dashboards (or Status Boards) which present the right information to the right people at the right time is arguably the single most important part of developing a data-driven organisation, as without this last piece in the ‘Information Stack’ your organisation will not be able to take any meaningful action.

And yet, is it really that complicated to distill your data into a handful of meaningful and actionable metrics and then to share these metrics with the right people in order to facilitate decision-making?

At Geckoboard we believe passionately that creating and sharing actionable information in the form of Dashboards should not be complex.

Over the coming weeks we will be publishing a series of blog posts designed to help companies create useful, meaningful and actionable Dashboards that can ultimately deliver a competitive advantage.

In the first article we will be discussing why dashboards are important to your business, together with the different types of dashboard (Strategic, Analytical, Operational).



[1] - Managing Big Data – Raconteur 13th June 2012

[2] – McKinsey Global Institute May 2011 – Big data the next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity