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How data democratization can enhance decision making

In order to have a positive effect on decision making, users need access to data that is accurate, digestible and updated in real time. But that's easier said than done.

Most companies today want better access to data and the right tools to get them there. That information is the...

engine of more efficient operations and better decision making, for all departments within an organization: Salespeople need more real-time data about their customers before a client meeting; marketers need better data to establish targeted campaigns; and executives need digestible, easy-to understand data to make business decisions in real time and when they're on the go.

And now, they can have it. Today, business intelligence no longer rests solely in the hands, and minds, of IT. All end users, from salespeople to marketers, have easy access to data and tools that improve their daily decision making. Cloud BI tools promise an unprecedented level of self-sufficiency to more or less an entire organization.

The promise of easy access to data is achievable today. Still, despite the trend of data democratization, many organizations have yet to realize the benefits; they aren't taking advantage of BI tools to get easy access to data that is technically quite possible. In fact, Gartner surveys indicate that 70% of potential BI users fail to adopt CIO-sponsored analytics tools. With 71% of companies planning to increase their analytics budgets in 2016, it is imperative that users adopt new analytics tools and prevent that investment from going to waste.

Jumpstart sales with integrated BI

This year, Bluewolf's "The State of Salesforce Report" found that 81% of companies cited increasing the use of predictive analytics as important to their sales strategies in the upcoming year. For salespeople to move from reactive to proactive sales, leaning on in-line intelligence and analytics within Salesforce Sales Cloud is key. Salesforce Wave Analytics App, demoed at Dreamforce 2015, made it that much easier for sales teams to take charge of their own BI. With the app, real-time intelligence that monitors past activity -- for example, the last time a salesperson called or emailed a lead -- can also be used to prompt the next action, which helps reps sell better and faster. Furthermore, year-over-year data can now be incorporated into your dashboard, showcasing forecast, pipeline coverage, average win rate and revenue numbers, and letting you compare performances.

While data democratization may seem like a tall order, it will be a key differentiator for organizations moving forward.

If a sales manager notices, for example, that the current week's pipeline numbers are down compared with last week, he can view a graph of the pipeline moving in and out, track the decreases down to the region, find the opportunity manager, and encourage him to work on the account and increase the pipeline numbers. By integrating analytics tools like Salesforce Wave into your sales team's dashboards, a company can not only create better salespeople, but also increase sales engagement by giving reps more visibility into the data that drives sales strategy. With this kind of transparency -- the democratization of BI -- sales reps will be more efficient, more proactive and more satisfied in their roles.

Don't have cloud BI tools yet?

If you're not ready to implement cloud BI tools like Wave Analytics throughout your organization, consider a proof-of-concept trial, where you implement the tool to a segment of your company or department to prove value. Data democratization requires tools and capabilities be flexible and readily available. Organizations are no longer locked into massive requirements gatherings before undertaking an analytics project -- cloud BI tools allow you to conduct proofs-of-concept with your own data and just a few plug-and-play BI tools.

Looking for predictive capabilities? Buy an app. Need an extract, transform, load tool for data migration? Just plug it into your existing CRM. From data enrichment to report creation and data visualization, third-party apps and tools will allow you to empower your teams with self-service BI tools now.

While data democratization may seem like a tall order, it will be a key differentiator for organizations moving forward. When you begin to plan how your organization will democratize data, consider how the following criteria could -- and should -- come into play:

  1. How data-driven decisions will become the norm for end users and their processes. Data should be so abundant throughout your organization that consumption is easy and automatic. Think specifically about how BI tools can revamp mobile views of data, embedded analytics, rich visualizations and data-driven workflow integration for your company.
  2. How end users will be able to directly influence how data is presented and consumed. If it's easy for them, they'll adopt the tools. If not, you've wasted your investment.
  3. How to present information in such a way that the volume of data is immaterial. Only the most relevant information is served up at a given juncture in the workflow process, despite capturing every meaningful customer touchpoint; relevant structured or unstructured attribute; or new data source like the Internet of Things, or IoT.
  4. How your business will be enabled with self-service data preparation, data enrichment, and data integration capabilities. Remember the significance of the user learning curve. Considering the user profile and what they want out of their data, then developing training for them, will improve BI tool adoption.

IT and the business need to develop partnerships to make this new comingling of capabilities run more smoothly. Business needs to look to IT for insights surrounding data governance and security, while IT needs to be more involved in the business's strategic goals and understand users' need for data visibility. The path toward data democratization can be disruptive, and for many there may be a turbulent road ahead -- but the impact it will have on business outcomes like revenue growth, efficiency and customer retention will be well worth the investment.

About the author:
With more than 10 years of Salesforce leadership, Adam Bataran has driven numerous transformational Salesforce initiatives concerning predictive analytics, BI integration, sales performance analytics, the 360-degree view of the customer and guided insights.

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