No more gut feeling – a strategy based on facts is easier to justify

We live in a time where constant competitive advantage is history. The strategy work cannot be done once per year anymore - as a half secret task done by a small team - but it needs to be a continuous process based on information. The right solution today might not be the same tomorrow. In a world where nothing else than change is certain, we must stay awake: analyze the change and the market, look into the future and not so much into the rear mirror.

Get the right information for the strategy work

Information and data-driven leadership are in the center of everything in this era of dynamic strategy. Information is the missing link between the market/ the competitive situation and the strategy / its execution. Since the strategy is the same as the choices of the business, a winning strategy is best built by connecting analyzed information to a strong vision of the business.

On the other hand, putting a strategy into practice requires measures which are based on shared information and on silos-crashing objectives. Unbribable measures ensure that the business stays on the chosen track.

Use agile analytics and predictive models

The effort to move into the data-driven leadership era can feel like a stunning eternity project, in the midst of the explosive growth of data. But this is not the case these days!

Thanks to easily implemented cloud-based services and advanced analytics, an agile start in using Big Data is possible in all industries, from pulp and paper to retail. Traditional financial data can for example be connected to up-to-date customer and market data using analytics tools like IBM SPSS Modeler[P1] . This helps the business decision-maker to turn the focus from history to future, using predictive models.

The work of the sales director, for example, becomes more manageable as the sales potential of the product or service is recognized beforehand on a customer, customer segment or area level. This kind of forecasting is often related to large customer masses in the consumer business, but predictive models are actually easier to build in the B-to-B world, from a data masses aspect as well as from a security aspect.

Accordingly, the person in charge of the maintenance of a production site can schedule the service breaks much easier if the remaining life of each component is known.

Think usability and visualization of data

A new analytics approach can be started in a few months, also in the most traditional industries. The first version is implemented in a few weeks using an agile model. A testing period makes opportunities visible and gives a clear picture of the Return on Investment.

Easy use of information and an agile progress are vital from the beginning. Production, logistics, sales and marketing can have their own, easy-to-use, visual user interfaces, which lower the adoption of using the information in daily decision-making.

At its best, putting the customer view into practice throughout the entire organization feeds a continuous, agile customer oriented development in order to reach the common objectives.

Information belongs to everybody

When transferring from traditional, financial measures to a much broader, data-driven leadership, a cultural change is required to succeed. The fragmented pieces of information from departments or line-of-businesses must now form a solid view of the business, its objectives and results. The up-to-date information should support processes where needed. The user angle may vary, but the common information base belongs to everybody.

For the daily decision-maker, who is not a specialist in analytics or reporting, the information should be presented in an easy-to-use view for decision-making. Deciding, for example, on campaign products and their pricing, in order to reach the desired campaign results, is easy and quick with a scenario tool. The choices made can be directly implemented.

Only this way each and every person in the organization can understand how to contribute to executing the strategy and commit to the objectives. The change towards data-driven leadership is more about information than technology.

Analytic competitive advantage is a strategic choice

Whether we want it or not, we have transferred into a global information society, where the success of a business depends on creating new business models and on constant improvement. This requires not only experience and understanding of this moment, but also the ability to see and open-mindedly analyze future options – and first and foremost it requires the courage to give up old thinking and behavioral models.

Leading with your gut is more likely to keep you in your comfort zone – pervasively used analytics can help you find new markets and competitive ways. That is why the opportunities that come with refining and analyzing data are gaining in popularity in many organizations’ strategy work.

Antti Syväniemi is the CEO of Houston Analytics Oy[P2] . His expertise areas are leadership models using analytics and intelligent strategy processes.

Houston Analytics is an analytics company started by experts on data-driven leadership. By linking data to business decision-making Houston Analytics is guiding its customers to market leaderships in their industries.