If you could have the answer to one burning business question, what would it be? How do I attract new customers? How do I hold onto the customers I already have? How can we increase our profitability?

Getting the right answers can make or break your business – but if you’re harnessing data like a boss, you’ve already got them. If you’re not, it’s time to up your game.

The change begins with you. I know, I know; you didn’t get to the C-suite by being less than bright. Like most successful leaders, you’ve got great business savvy, good instincts, and blind faith in your "gut". But that’s not enough anymore, because the landscape has changed dramatically – it’s a data-driven world. And if you’re leaving intel on the table, rest assured that your competition is scooping it up to use against you. 

Here are five ways to up your data game to Boss Level: 

  1. Build a data strategy, one that starts with commitment by you and your colleagues to create and stick with policies that will get you all going in the same direction; towards achieving a specific goal. If you’re not all headed in the same direction, it will be effort wasted. Clearly, you need to begin by agreeing on that goal – and getting top-down buy-in from everyone involved as to its strategic importance.
      • What do you need to know to achieve that goal?
      • Where could you potentially find that information?
      • Who in your company is going to be responsible for getting that data? How are you going to empower their quest?
      • What will you do with the data once you’ve got it?
      • Do you have someone on board with the skills to crunch the data you reap? If not, who will you need to bring on board to help?
      • What technology do you need?

Pay more than lip service to this effort; make time to regularly meet and review progress toward your shared goal.

2. Assemble your data leadership team. A project without a champion is doomed; a venture like this needs a team of champions to keep the momentum moving forward. The people best positioned to drive your efforts are the data users (Marketing and Business users) and your data gatherers (your in-house researchers and CIO). If you don’t have in-house data gathers, then use your business analysts. Make sure that different departments are amply represented on the team; they all have different needs, and this needs to be a collaborative effort.

3. Look first in your own backyard. Your own people are good potential sources of data; enable them to share their insights with a continuous loop of communication, so that everyone can contribute. What are they hearing in the field? What are customers telling them? What are they seeing in the marketplace?  Make sure every member of your team feels empowered to share, then incorporate this qualitative feedback into all your data pipelines. Transactional data on its own is flat; use customer stories to bring it to life, and to add further insight.

4. Centralize! Build a virtual warehouse/repository; an enterprise data warehouse (EDW). This system has to be (a) accessible to every team member (b) user-friendly and (c) contain not only your internal data but also the data you’ve gathered from outside sources. If it can do data blending also, then you have an awesome tool. This will help prevent your data from getting siloed in different departments that might not communicate effectively with each other. Data that can’t be accessed isn’t worth having. 

5. A true data boss never stops being the head cheerleader for your company’s data gathering and analysis efforts. Make every effort to apply your data gathering to all business decisions. When your people understand how invested you are in these efforts, they’ll redouble their own. It’s got to be built into your corporate culture, and it’s got to be ongoing. If you don’t have a CIO – a Chief Intelligence Officer – you need become him or her.

But the first step is coming up with that clearly defined question. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, how will you know when you’ve found it? That’s the biggest issue facing organizations today; they do research or collect intel for research’s sake, which is pointless wheel-spinning.

Being a true data boss means building a data culture that’s a working piece of your company, one that connects the dots - and the silos.