Data is at the heart of many business decisions. It’s no surprise that data scientist was ranked the hottest job in the U.S. earlier this year. Whether a company builds out a data team or has one data-savvy employee, turning metrics into meaningful insights is key to business success today and in the future.

Yet many enterprises face challenges in adding and retaining customers because they don’t have the right information or analytical capabilities. Sales, customer support and finance teams often rely on separate technologies and don’t lean on the data person or team to help them understand the numbers that tie to their business goals — and how to turn that data into actionable insights.

Data professionals and data-driven technologies can give companies visibility and control into the business as a whole, and help increase revenue, profits and customer satisfaction. Bad data — or no data — leads to bad business decisions.

Everyone from an account manager to the CFO can leverage data to work more efficiently and better understand how their activities align with the team’s priorities and impact the business’ bottom line. From infrastructure to hiring, data is paramount to building a strategic business.

Enterprises should keep these three strategies in mind as they seek to grow their businesses and retain customers:

Adopt a platform built for collaboration

Today, many managers get insights from different apps and systems and therefore don’t have a big-picture view of projects. Some companies move to cloud technology and think they’ll instantly be more connected, but that’s not the case. In fact, many enterprises create silos as a result of moving to the cloud because they use multiple applications and find themselves tacking together a mash of applications and technical architectures into one cloud solution, creating a “Frankencloud” of sorts.

Take this statistic for example: about 15 percent of companies use just one cloud application, with a majority using three or more, according to a recent study by thinkJar and Beagle Research Group. As each application is added, the number of logins, databases, customer records, development toolsets, and collaboration tools bloats, creating an integration nightmare for IT.

This Frankencloud situation decreases employee productivity since employees spend their time in the trenches looking for information and entering the same data in many different systems. More and more businesses are coming to this crossroads, and recognizing the value of investing in a one-platform solution where all major apps emanate from the same ecosystem and integrate with one another seamlessly.

Enterprises are also increasingly recognizing that technologies that talk to one another enable smarter, faster decision making and create a collaborative framework for teams to work as one cohesive unit. Businesses will be better equipped for cross collaboration on large projects when they choose tools with real-time chat and the ability to mention or address a specific team member directly to keep track of all discussions relating to that project.

Taking it one step further, improved collaboration can eliminate the poor project visibility and double-entry that prevent so many projects from realizing their true success.

For example, since adopting an integrated cloud solution, Gap’s finance and operating teams can pull up specific transaction details when talking about an invoice and have a contextual view by looking at the same information. Not only have they improved internal and external communications, they’re working more efficiently and are able to call out information applicable to certain teams.

Arm HR with data-driven insights

When HR teams have insight into employee capacity and skillsets as well as current and upcoming projects, they can better manage the team’s workload and address employee disengagement. But often enterprises don’t give HR the same data attention as other teams. They’re left in the dust, guessing about how to address employees’ changing demands and when teams will need employees with specific skills. According to Deloitte, until recently 86 percent of companies reported no analytics capabilities in HR.

Businesses like global nonprofit Ashoka have begun to realize the value of data-driven HR teams and as a result, have invested in tools to improve the choices made around hiring, training and promotion. Ashoka deployed analytics-rich, self-service HR, which introduced an automated process for HR tasks and greater insight into employee engagement.

Armed with the right insights, businesses can focus on creating an engaged workforce, which ultimately leads to satisfied clients and a profitable business. In addition, management decisions can be quantified and predicted with data, allowing companies to improve their performance and understand employee engagement at a higher level.

When HR has insights into project demand and employee performance, they can better forecast and staff the team. Then, employees can focus on strengthening customer relationships, rather than stressing about having to cover multiple people’s jobs.

Focus on customers first

Putting the customer at the center of everything business do will result in greater business success. Yet often manual processes and data entry tasks take the focus away from the customer. When you streamline the process and introduce data-driven technology, people can use that data to make customer-first decisions.

Structural engineering firm Engineering Express adopted a strategy that focused more on a more tech-savvy, automated approach, since its particular customer base demands rapid response engineering products. By integrating CRM data throughout their business, Engineering Express improved project planning so sales could see resource availability and services could see pipeline. As a result, the company aligns itself around customer needs first, which led to 15 percent growth in a six-month period.

Sales should share the pain points and feedback from the customer with the entire company, so they can work as one to provide a better customer experience. For example, if an account manager reports that a customer’s employees don’t fully understand how to use the product, accounting can offer a discount on training as an incentive and to show they understand the customer’s needs.

When enterprises prioritize data and break down walls between teams, they unleash new insights and identify innovative new ways to grow. This in turn boosts customer retention -- something every company can get behind.

(About the author: Kevin Roberts is director of platform technology at FinancialForce)

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