Why winning in business is all about winning in data

Really? What does that even mean?

Read any “how to win in business” manual these days and the bottom line all comes down to data. How much of it you have, what you do it with it once you’ve got it, and what difference it will make to your bottom line. Data has become big business and there is serious money to be made by those companies that have the best quality data available and use it in the most efficient way

OK, you might have something interesting to say after all.

You’re too kind. Just look at the growing number of data providers who specialise in supplying must-have data to their respective business sector. Businesses that live and breathe data and have made global empires as a result, like Nielsen, Kantar and Mintel. Data is transforming the way we now access and get hold of the vital business information we need to run our companies. Major publishing companies, like RELX, used to produce tens of business sector titles a month, but as the internet has taken over and traditional advertising has fallen off the cliff, they have had to transform themselves into offering high value data and analytics services for those business sectors instead. So rather than try and chase advertising and subscribers for Farmers Weekly magazine, the money is now to be made in Proagrica, which collates and produces intelligent data and analytics, that the agriculture sector is willing to pay big money to subscribe to. It’s happening across all major industry sectors. Data is king. Just look at the drinks industry where we have a raft of businesses from Nielsen, Kantar, Mintel, Statista, Wine Intelligence, IWSR, CGA, and many more, all trying to catch our attention with their business intelligence and data.

It does not sound very creative?

Well, it depends how good you are reading and crunching numbers. Today’s data analysts are yesterday’s magazine reporters. But rather than go out and try and find stories, the analysts just know where and how to get the right data to give them the results, content, and analysis they need to offer intelligent solutions. It’s why the most coveted position the average chief executive is looking for is no longer a finance chief, but a chief technology officer. CTOs are the ones getting the biggest bucks and driving the fastest cars. They are the ones who are planning and setting a company’s technology strategy, and putting in the steps necessary to get not just the best data, but the right data for that company.

So where do we go to get the best data solutions?

Clearly your own business can only take you so far. There is only so much intelligence you can scrape out of your own data. The key is to look at how you are getting that data in the first place - and that’s online. Who are the kings of online? The search providers. Google, for example, is not just about delivering the best search results, it is also now one of the most powerful data providers in the world, giving companies access to infinite amounts of data about who, when, where and how people are talking about and searching for your business online.

What is the best form of data then?

Good question. According to our panel of data experts that took part in an Innovation Zone session at the London Wine Fair, it’s not just data per se that’s important. But how it has been captured, and what it can tell you about how your business is performing. It’s the search for quality data that counts, according to Alex Linsley at Liberty Wines. For data to really work, a company has to be crystal clear about what it wants to achieve, what are its key business goals and targets and how can data help it achieve them, he added. But to do that you need to set your computer sales and reporting systems in such a way that it provides you with the right kind of data presented in the most comprehensive and efficient way. Big Data is not the answer to all your problems on its own, it’s how that Big Data has been sliced up to help you make the most objective decisions. “There is too much data complexity in most businesses,” said Linsley.

Can you expand on that?

Probably best if I let Jon Pepper MW at Enotria & Coe answer that. He told the LWF panel that for wine distributors it is a case of being able to analyse both your own internal data based on what you are selling and sending out, and then combining that with intelligence from what your customers are then selling in their outlets. Topped up with more industry data from the likes of CGA to give the wider perspective. From that you can then see the “areas where you are strong, where you over index, and areas where you might need to do more work,” said Pepper. The key, he added, was to keep looking at your data. To be really effective you need to be on top of it on a weekly basis.

Anything else?

Data has raised everyone’s business expectations. If you run a wine competition then producers are going to expect a full minute-by-minute breakdown of how the wines were tasted, by whom and what they said about them. If you run a promotion with a particular retailer or restaurant group you expect to see a full report on how it went. And you won’t renew and do it again unless you do. Pepper said the challenge is there for wine distributors to use data to take their services to the next level. Like automated data systems that could take re-orders overnight from customers and then automatically replenish them. That kind of service could be “transformational,” claimed Pepper. It might sound a bit Big Brother, but it’s the way so much of our business is already being done and will most certainly dictate how it is done in the future.