Windward Insights

Use Data to Drive Your Business Like You Drive Your Car

Published Feb. 4, 2016
Written by Nick Wilkerson

Car dashboard

The next time you jump in your car, I want you to take a few moments to do something. I want you to look at the various instruments in your car’s instrument panel, and think about the valuable information the various meters and gauges provide every time you get in your car. Now, I want you to imagine what your life would be like – or at least your driving experience – without these instruments. Imagine a situation in which you had no speedometer to tell you when you were at risk of getting a ticket (although I’m certain you never go over the speed limit). Imagine driving to work with no real sense for whether or not you have enough fuel to make it there.

Now granted, assuming you humored me with this exercise, you may have never even considered such a scenario until now. After all, these instruments are far from novel – speedometers, for instance, have been around since the early 20thcentury. But the fact is, these instruments provide us all with critical information that we need to drive safely and get from point A to points B, C, D, and so on each and every day. So many of our decisions are made based on this information. Speed up! Slow down! Re-fuel! Moreover, so much of this information is being fed to you in real time.

Well, when you think about it – this is what data-driven decision making is all about – equipping an individual with the right information at the right time to make the right decision. And while this may seem second-nature, or even insignificant, in the context of driving automobiles – it is quite remarkable to consider that a nearly identical approach can be leveraged to help you drive your business.

During your morning commute to work, data reflected by your fuel gauge tells you whether or not you need to stop by the convenience store to add gasoline. Once you’re at work, customer service metrics can tell you whether you need to hire additional staff to better manage customer demand. And while you’re driving along the interstate, your speedometer – combined with external data (e.g., traffic patterns, speed limit signs) tells you whether you should slow down or speed up at any given moment. At work, marketing metrics can tell you whether to increase or throttle down marketing spend based on campaign performance.

Let’s not forget alerts! If you’re like me, you rely exclusively on alerts before taking action (at least as far as automobiles go). Automobile alerts like the check engine and the check oil light, and the tail light malfunction alert, provide you with a heads up that you need to take action soon (or soon’ish). At work, you have the ability to leverage your data to: (1) Define scenarios and events that you consider mission critical; and (2) Receive automated alerts that notify you when the event has occurred.

I’ve always preached the gospel that businesses should be leveraging data more and more. In the past, I’ve perhaps been guilty of over-complicating things – and getting too deep into the weeds by talking about sophisticated algorithms and technology tools – in selling the value of analytics. Well, the pitch is much simpler now – I only ask that you drive your business like you drive your car – and leverage data to make smart decisions.