The science of using data to make decisions…there really is NO science.


Businesses leaders and decision makers can’t seem to get their fill of data or business intelligence (BI). This desire is for good reason, high-quality, relevant data streamlines effective decision making, thus, creating an opportunity for businesses to succeed. Data presents itself in a variety of forms; the one most commonly used in business settings is numerical data.

The fact is that numbers don’t lie (at least that’s what we’re told) and more often than not, it is the case. Numbers don’t show favoritism, never have a bad day or get caught up in outside noise. Numbers are what they are, and as long as the parties responsible for generating the numbers are truthful, then they’re a source of reliable and relevant information for businesses to act on.

Business Data

The intent of this article is to highlight the decision-making process (or lack thereof) with regards to data. With that said, let’s assume all data has already been accumulated. Therefore, I am not going to interpret the following:

  1. Data mining strategies used to retrieve data
  2. Personal experiences (i.e., “hard lessons learned”) gathering data

Continuing with our scenario, all relevant data has been amassed and formatted into a nicely made report. The reports are distributed to all pertinent persons, and all begin to analyze the report. The distribution of the report/data can be during a meeting, prior to a meeting or at the conclusion of the meeting (follow-up data); regardless, this is when the “science” of using the data must commence.

Here is the science…ACT ON THE DATA. That is all. I’ve had experiences when business leaders acted as follows:

  1. Accentuate the importance of gathering data to measure the effectiveness of business and assist with decision making.
  2. Review
  3. Explain to others the “highlights” of the data – such as a strong set of particular financial ratios versus industry averages or recent data.
  4. Request more data prior to making a decision.
  5. Return to STEP 2.

These leaders tend to be in “perpetual review” mode or constantly take a “wait and see” approach. By the time they decide act, previous data can already be irrelevant and replaced with new data that will change the course of action; thus, the process continues.

Wait & See Approach

Wait & See Approach

I understand the logic that coincides with retrieving data prior to making decisions. I am a strong advocate of gathering data and using it for ad-hoc reporting, business forecasts, trend analysis, in addition to other forms of reporting in order to determine the best course of action.

I believe in gathering data since it frequently precedes effective decisions, and effective decisions lead to successful businesses. You have to trust the data that you’ve accrued and make decisions using it to its fullest capabilities. Using data will not only help you and your business succeed, but it will enhance others perception of you; you will appear more effective and confident, both desirable traits.

I strongly oppose accumulating data to simply accumulate more data, and then accumulate more. One can amass all the data they want, but, you have a responsibility to your business, department, co-workers, employees, whomever to utilize it and take action. To act otherwise would be inappropriate and unfair to all others involved.  You spend a lot of time and effort in hoarding and reviewing data, reward yourself and others by acting on it and make a decision.

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