In business, data is all. Everything else is vanity

Pete Moore, April 24, 2017 2 min read

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

Pete Moore loves data and set up Manchester-based Look At Your Data to, well, look at more data. He believes data to be a strategic asset and, when he’s not advising on GDPR, he’s enabling organisations to realise their huge data potential.

“Data is an asset and, if you don’t look at it properly, you are probably missing a trick.”

This is the sort of sentence someone like me says to someone like you. Don’t worry, by now I know the drill: I say it, you say something like “right,” or “makes sense.” Then, just as I’m getting excited, you drop the bombshell: “the thing is, we don’t really have data.”

When you say this to me I want to simultaneously shake you by the shoulders, give you a consoling hug and drop to my knees yelling “but you do have data.” You, typically, have already moved on.

One of us is a lunatic and – presuming your predilection for sanity – you probably think it’s me.

What if you’re right?

Scarily, this is the conclusion I’ve come to, too. Relatively speaking. I’m not giving up my marbles just yet.

“Data” drives a great passion in me. This is because I’ve seen the impact good data management can have. By data management, I mean the art of paying attention to the information available. And in the modern business there is lots of information. For example, I have looked at performance data and said stuff like: “this Steady Eddy is a superstar”, or conversely, “Superstar X might just be a show-off, you know.” This make me feel good because, in the bigger picture, data leads to meritocracy and, as business people, if we don’t have that, what do we have?

Data in disguise

One reason people think they don’t have data is that the data is usually in disguise. Like, I was talking to a coffee shop owner about her bestselling items, she said tea, coffee, avocado on toast, and hot chocolate. In that order. Avocados? I wondered.

I asked if she didn’t mind my looking at her data. She gave me her EPOS data, I looked at it and, sure enough, there was avocado on toast, a genuine bestseller. You go to that coffee shop today and there are lush, green avocado trees growing out the back. A quick look at the data increased the margin on a bestselling item from 50 percent to 95 percent. (There are, of course, more complicated versions of this story but the pattern repeats: data, used strategically, gets insight and makes money.)

This is a bit, a small bit, of what data means to me. When I see data, I see more – way more – than spreadsheets. I see people, I see events. I see opportunities; the past; the future. And most importantly I see the present. I see data as the window into how your business works and everything else as vanity.

I founded Look At Your Data not only to, well, look at data, but because data, viewed correctly, makes things fair. Naively, perhaps, I equate that to increased happiness. This may make me a (relative) lunatic, it also makes me a man on a mission.

Data & research, Guest Posts, Manchester, North West