Data Management Considerations for Your Business Plan

By Steven D. Peterson, Peter E. Jaret, Barbara Findlay Schenck

To the long-standing list of business capabilities, smart businesses are adding another category: data management. How you collect quality data, capture and maintain business and customer information, extract usable information, monitor key indicators, insure data security, and apply your findings to enhance marketing, production, productivity, growth, and product innovation has become an increasingly important aspect of running a successful business.

Businesses leverage collected data in an ever-lengthening list of ways, including, but by no means limited to, these examples:

  • Increase efficiency by making customer information, production status, inventory, and other business information accessible to on-site and remote employees.
  • Segment target customers in order to tailor offerings and messages accordingly.
  • Offer customers predictive services; for example, social media sites present “people you may know” and online retailers provide recommendations of “purchases made by others shopping for this item” suggestions.
  • Anticipate customer volume based on trends from past purchase patterns and forecasted anticipated conditions; for example, forecasts for utility usage or restaurant volume and selection based on weather forecasts.
  • Track, enhance, and benefit from customer on-site visits. Some retailers use a hardware device called a beacon to activate and send customized messages to downloaded apps on customer mobile devices. Others improve retail and display layouts by monitoring captured video to map customer traffic and to monitor where customers stop compared to purchase volume from that point.
  • Stay on top of reviews and ratings, encouraging customer posts by following purchases with review invitations and consistently monitoring review sites for insights and possible responses.

Create data-driven products or services that can generate revenue or deliver competitive advantages. As an example of a data-driven revenue generator, LinkedIn bundles its user profile data into a recruiting and staffing tool purchased by headhunters and hiring companies. As an example of a value-added data-driven service, the real estate site Zillow offers a free automated home value estimation tool, Zestimate, that’s helped the site attract visitors, achieve top-of-mind awareness, and draw industry-leading visitor counts.

In your written plan, include a statement about your data management plans, including the objective of data collection, the source and ownership of data, and how you plan to apply collected data to strengthen products, operations, marketing, and business operations.

As you develop data capabilities for your business, keep in mind that you need to either own or have permission to use the data you’re accessing and leveraging. Social media networks, for example, collect enough data to serve as their own data sources, whereas other businesses form data-gathering affiliations, purchase data, or harvest data from publicly available sources.