Big Data: Driving the Future of Decision-Making

By Todd LeBaron – CEO

It’s a truth many organizations don’t want to admit: Corporate decision-making is often like a one-way mirror that reflects a singular perspective. The reason is simple. As humans, we have a tendency to base our judgments on a single piece of information while rejecting other input. We like to make decisions based on what we already know and are comfortable with, and have those assumptions reflected back at us to affirm our beliefs. But in a sales organization, this “mirror” style of decision-making can hurt performance and the company’s ability to compete in a global economy. To drive continued business growth and success, we have to think differently.

The era of Big Data is already forcing this change in decision-making. Vast and continually growing data volumes, together with cloud-based technologies that can slice, dice and interpret a thousand points of data, are rapidly transforming how we manage our organizations. Corporations have no choice but to shatter the mirror style of decision-making in favor of an analytical prism that can transform multiple sources of data into full-color business insights.

But what exactly is Big Data and how is it impacting the way we do business? One of the best definitions I’ve seen comes from a recent blog post in The New York Times: “The [Big Data] catchall phrase means three things. First, it is a bundle of technologies. Second, it is a potential revolution in measurement. And third, it is a point of view, or philosophy, about how decisions will be — and perhaps should be — made in the future.”

This last point is especially relevant to sales organizations. Once upon a time sales leaders made decisions based on their “gut feel” or intuition. But in a global economy where markets are changing in real time and increased government regulation is challenging established corporate practices, organizations simply cannot afford to make decisions that aren’t rooted in science-based business intelligence. In light of the fundamental technology and business changes happening today, we have to take a fresh and honest look at how we are making decisions now, and prepare our sales organizations for risks and opportunities down the road.

Central to this data-driven transformation is the ability to distinguish vital from irrelevant information, and push key insights out to decision-makers on their device of choice. In fact, in a recent survey of senior finance executives conducted by the Beyond Budgeting Round Table and Business Finance magazine, 64 percent said the ability to turn data into fact-based decision-making is the number one way to improve financial planning and business performance management. And more than half (52 percent) said management carries, or would like to carry, tablets and other mobile devices to access key metrics and take action on the fly.

So the question is, how do you actually do all of this? How do you exploit Big Data and deliver the critical insights your sales force needs to outperform and outcompete the rest of the market?

Based on OpenSymmetry’s years of experience working with hundreds of global companies across every industry, we’ve developed sales performance management (SPM) best practices for helping customers unlock the value of their corporate data. By enabling customers to mine data from disparate systems such as incentive compensation management (ICM), customer relationship management (CRM) and corporate performance management (CPM), they can begin to see the true business potential previously hidden in these technology siloes.

The ability to evaluate the relevance, quality and type of data found in these systems and make connections between seemingly unrelated data is essential to building a sales organization driven by automated and actionable business intelligence. When you can comb through vast volumes of data and find meaningful patterns in real time, you can begin to make decisions based on relevant trends. For instance, you can develop pricing and promotion campaigns that respond to patterns in customer behavior and purchase history. Using these insights you can set more targeted sales goals, better negotiate deals and update incentive compensation plans to meet sales and business objectives.

Just as important, you can enable your sales team to tap into cloud-based applications from their mobile devices. With on-demand mobile intelligence they can make critical decisions, such as changing pricing terms or upgrading value-added services that deliver the edge they need to close a deal and beat out the closest competitor.

As an added benefit, greater autonomy that leads to increased sales is an incredibly powerful sales force motivator. Not only are your top performers constantly looking for a competitive edge, mid-tier sales staff are also frequently motivated by and want to mirror the success of their higher-performing peers.

In short, there’s a reason why Big Data is big. It’s because with the right tools, any organization can use it to make powerful decisions that drive sales performance. Capitalizing on these new technologies means we need to stop looking at the same view in the mirror. We don’t need to know what we already know. We need to continually enlighten our organizations and make decisions based on meaningful, scientific business intelligence that can be quickly mobilized across the sales force.

 

How are you optimizing your decision-making processes in the era of Big Data? Which analytical tools are you currently using or evaluating for your sales organization? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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