Data today is like oil in the 19th century: People know the resource has tremendous value, but they’re still searching for the best way to extract it. That duty often falls on data analysts, but analytics and insights must be accessible in order for companies to really benefit.

Companies become more confident and more agile in their decision-making once they begin treating data like a shared resource.

According to research by TDWI and Datawatch, only 11 percent of data executives are satisfied with their firms’ investments to enable data-driven decision-making. Users reported that one of their top problems was feeling frustrated and ineffective regarding their use of data, which is all too common in businesses today. Additional pain points of data adoption include poor explanations of new processes, insufficient training, and poor strategy implementation and follow-through.

This user frustration is an important concern to address, as gaining an in-depth understanding of past performance can allow companies to better predict the future. And by tracking key metrics in real time, companies can much more easily mitigate operational risks moving forward.

Shared data is also a tool for innovation. Once employees have extensive data and access to analytical tools, they can take a deep dive into the available information, testing out new hypotheses and acting on bold ideas. Fact-based experimentation inevitably leads to reductions in cost, gains in efficiency, improvements in service and product development, and new revenue sources.

If data is the game-changing resource it’s billed as, its benefits are not limited to executives or tech experts. It’s a resource capable of making everyone, across all departments and levels, better at what they do. Companies that harness this potential will begin to see a number of positive and momentous shifts.

Adopting a Data-Driven Strategy in Any Organization

In recent years, companies have focused extensively on collecting and storing as much data as possible. Now that collection is basically automatic, companies have shifted their emphasis to organizing and distributing that data as effectively as possible. To adopt your own data-driven strategy, start with these steps:

• Set a data management strategy. Data management must be a key priority, not just a minor initiative. At least one individual should be solely responsible for ensuring effective data management. This data steward should be responsible for drafting plans and policies to preserve the integrity and accessibility of data across the enterprise.

• Break down data silos. When data is inaccessible, insights are incomplete. Data silos happen when companies wall off data between departments or teams, which only makes it harder for stakeholders to find the information they urgently need. Breaking down these silos reveals how information connects to information from other quadrants of the company and goes a long way toward preserving data integrity.

• Institute access controls. Data is both highly valuable and highly sensitive. The goal of making data more accessible must be balanced against the need to make sure that data remains secure. Implementing a tenanting system prevents unauthorized individuals from seeing information outside their purviews.

• Make analytics accessible. Insights, not merely the data these insights are based upon, are what is really valuable. If employees are empowered to answer their own analytical questions, then they don’t have to seek out data analysts for answers. That leads to faster decision-making while liberating data experts to focus on high-level projects.

• Foster a culture of data literacy. Analytical tools are much more valuable when employees have a basic understanding of how data is organized, optimized, and utilized. Adjusting training and recruitment strategies can lead to a culture of data literacy companywide.

Applying data across a business is not as intimidating as it seems. It’s focused on making data less technical instead of more complex and confusing. That way, this resource can finally reach its full potential. For more information, try out my company’s free demo.