Google has a tool that allows you to export all of the information it has about you: websites visited, YouTube videos watched, photos, emails, profile information, and much more. I thought I’d try it to see how much information they have about me. When I clicked “Create Archive” to export my data, a message came back that said, “An archive is currently being processed. Please note that this may take a long time (hours or possibly days) to create.” DAYS??? How much data do they have on me?
My first thought was “that’s just creepy,” but then I wondered, if they have that much data about me, how will I make any sense of it? How would anyone? It seems to me that if you could harness all of that data, you could see things that most people don’t. That’s really the genesis behind “big data,” knowing things you didn’t know before. But all that data has the potential to be just so much noise without any usable takeaways unless managed properly.
This is the same challenge financial institutions face – how to leverage data to provide value to the organization and fuel to strategies. Here are a few thoughts on ways to ensure your institution is using data to your advantage.
1. Use The Right Data. More data isn’t always the answer unless it’s the right data. The organization’s strategic goals should drive the search for and analysis of data. Strategies are often multi-million dollar investment decisions. It’s critical that your organization leverage the data that is available. For example, if expanding your market footprint by opening a new branch is a high priority for your bank or credit union, there is plenty of data available to support or contradict that decision. Data like basic consumer demographic trends, local economic conditions, competitive analysis, commercial business trends, and traffic flow patterns can all be used in the decision process and requires some level of analysis before making such a significant business decision.
How saturated is your local market? To see a larger version, click here.
2. Automate The Data. One of the biggest challenges working with data is the time and resources required. Last year, I created a presentation called “Taming the $200 Chart” to show off our new product, Stratezy. The example I used was a simple one: create a visualization to “show my financial institution’s loan delinquency trends compared to our local unemployment.” That request seems pretty straightforward. Until you actually spend the time to find the data, download the needed files (some measures, like local unemployment, may require multiple file downloads), and then format, correlate, and chart the data. The example chart took me four hours to complete, the equivalent of $200 of expense for someone earning $50/hour. I knew where the data was and how to manipulate it. If you’ve never worked with the data before, the time and expense to create this simple chart could easily double. That chart could easily turn into a $2,000 expense if I bring in other data or need to update it on a regular basis. Given the amount of time and effort involved in a creating just a simple chart, automating the data discovery process is a must.
3. Share And Collaborate. Even though data is plentiful these days, “gut instinct” or emotion are often used to make important strategic decisions. I love this quote from Jim Barksdale, former Netscape CEO, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” So, if the data is available, why isn’t it used? While data can sometimes be difficult or costly to get, another reason may also be at play. Simply put, people don’t always trust the data. In my opinion, distrusting the data isn’t a valid excuse in this age of data. Trust comes from knowing and understanding, so the more people are exposed to data, the more confident they are in using it to influence decisions. To help your team better use data, share data discoveries and insights. As long as what you share is relevant and timely, data trust will be a natural byproduct.
These days, data = understanding. There is value and insight in data. It’s time to start leveraging it to support your decisions. Your competitors already are.
By the way, my Google archive consists of information from 18 different Google products and had to be parsed into four .zip files totaling 7.46GB, including the route I took to run errands last Saturday. Please don’t tell me wife about my stop at the ice cream shop near Oak View Mall.