In the mid-19th Century, the American West was overrun by treasure hunters, prospectors, and all the businesses that followed them. California was ground zero for an enormous influx of people seeking their fortunes by prying gold nuggets from the hard earth, or panning for gold from the rushing waters of California’s rivers.Hot on the heels of the prospectors were thousands of others who may have doubted their odds of finding the mother lode in the Sierra Nevada goldfields, but nonetheless realized that fortunes awaited those who could provide services, provisions, and supplies to the gold seeking crowds. Levi Strauss, Henry Wells and William Fargo, and many others built businesses that not only prospered during the gold rush, but continue to be successful businesses to this day. The rush for gold may have been fueled by the hunger to possess the gold extracted from the cold, hard ground, but most of the gold ended up in the pockets of those who followed the prospectors and built businesses designed to serve them.
The Data Rush is on!
These days, gold is found not by digging deep into the foothills and rivers of California, but by extracting value from mountains and streams of data that pour into storage repositories from companies around the world. Enormous quantities of data are generated every single day by companies doing business on the internet. Even traditional brick-and-mortar businesses collect tremendous amounts of information from their customers in order to extract value from analyzing the trends that make or break their businesses.
Data is the gold of the 21st Century. If you are in business, regardless of whether your revenue is generated from data, dongles, or dough, you need to collect, store, and manage data in order to gain insight to improve your business. Companies that can’t utilize their data to find insight into the workings of their business simply will not succeed in the modern, data-driven world. But like Levi Strauss and Wells Fargo in the gold rush era, even if you aren’t directly digging for data gold, if you can find a way to capitalize on data, you can generate a fortune that may last for generations. Your business may not necessarily be focused specifically on storing or managing data, but you still need to understand data if you want your business to thrive.
Every picture tells a story, don’t it?
So how do you leverage the data you already have in order to improve your business? Cloud-based tools such as business Intelligence and data analytics that help you understand your data are available from numerous vendors. Let’s face it, a mountain of information in a database or in a huge spreadsheet is impossible to climb without a bit of help. A human is not designed to drill down into thousands of rows of data and make sense of it, as all that information can be incredibly overwhelming if examined in its raw form. Many companies, as they create their cloud migration services plan, make sure to include data analytics and machine learning capabilities to facilitate mining their data.
For instance, with data visualization tools such as Google Data Studio or Microsoft Power BI, you can scale a mountain of data with relative ease. These tools are designed to ingest data by the gigabyte, and present you with visualizations that can answer questions at a glance. The pictures that you can create with tools like these tell stories about your business, stories that you would otherwise never have discovered. And stories, ultimately, are the lifeblood of your business. How many people buy your products? Where do they live? Are there correlations between your sales and external events or conditions like the weather? What drives your customers to come back and buy more?
These are the stories that give you insight, and gaining insight grows your wisdom. The best business is the business that is self-aware and committed to constantly learning more about itself. And the best way for a business to learn about itself is to understand its data. The stories that we learn from data analysis and visualization can transform our businesses, and transforming our businesses can transform our lives.Originally published on September 29, 2017