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Improving Data Driven Decision Making in Digital

By 4 December, 2012
  • Thinking

What is data driven decision making? It’s the ability to make effective decisions on the back of actionable information. In digital we swim in data. Unfortunately, our venerable industry can suffer from data overload. We have so much data available to us, decisions are often quite problematic. What decision can you make when you have five different sources showing five different views of the truth, ten different variables and which brings into question what you should be looking at, as well as so much data that even a small question on an underlying assumption often leads to a collapse in the well-constructed house of cards.

The best way to approach the problem comes from preparation. Here are four key areas that need to be addressed before you can effectively make data driven decisions in digital.

1. Aggregation: Make sure you boil it all down to one point of authority

More often than not, you will have multiple sources of data counting one thing. Take sales coming from paid search. Here is a list of possible sources: Your analytics tool, your ad server, your bid management tool and your internal CRM system. I’ll bet every single source gives a different view of the truth. This unfortunately comes down to how the data is collected.

Different parts of the business will need to use these different measurement sources at different times, so you can’t just ignore them. The best thing to do to decide what is effective, you will need to line up each of these sources – and see if they are consistent. Then if they are consistent – choose an ‘authority’ data source – and measure the variation from each of these sources.

2. Consistency: Make sure everyone is looking at the same numbers

Perhaps the most important factor in effective data driven decision making is ensuring everyone from the tactician on ground level doing the data to day is looking at the same data as those on the board.  Once everyone is looking at the same data – decisions will be consistent, and people will begin to understand why decisions are made.

3. Accessibility: Make sure everyone can read the data

Fairly basic point – but you need to make sure everyone can read the data. Requiring a senior decision maker member log into a secure server to read their numbers is not going to get your data read. Equally, a finance team will need to be able easily port information across to their finance numbers. People often look at the numbers on the run – so can they be viewed on a mobile device? Also – are they presented in a format that everyone understands? Graphs? Tables? Think about all stakeholders and how they consume the information and how they read data and make sure its accessible.

4. Make it decision ready

Probably the most important point of all – you have to be able to make a decision from the data. How do you make the data decision ready? Well remember, we have narrowed the number of sources down, everyone is looking at one consistent view of the data and its presented in an accessible format. What that has done is simplified the decision process. Now we need to simplify it even further – you need to narrow down the variables of interest to as few as possible. Sure there are lots of other factors that need to be taken into account, but the basic core decisions to be made need to be factored down to just a few variables. The debate about what to do then surrounds this data. This is all you need on a day to day decision making.

Once you have these factors locked down – you will find you will be much more successful in data driven decision making – simply because the decisions become simpler. There is less debate extraneous factors and everyone is singing from the same song sheet.

Serge Milbank, Stream20 Co-Founder