What does it mean to be data-driven?

It’s a term heard often these days. Data-driven marketing. Data-driven public relations. Data-driven strategy. What does it really mean?

Do you simply let the data tell you where to go?

Do you turn over your marketing department, your executive suite, your entire business to the machines and hope it all works out well?

Believe it or not, you’ve had a data-driven experience on a regular basis, and you’re very comfortable with it. In fact, you’re so comfortable with it, you’ve forgotten what it’s like to not be data-driven.

Data-driven looks like this:

Google Maps

This, the GPS, is the epitome of data-driven anything. What does it mean to be data-driven? It means using data available to us to get where we want to go in an efficient manner.

What does data-driven not mean?

  • Data-driven doesn’t mean data determines the goal. Above, I set a destination of San Francisco. The data says nothing about whether I should go there or not. It just tells me how to get there.
  • Data-driven doesn’t even tell me if I’m getting there in the most efficient way possible. Above, it takes 45 hours to drive, 4 days by train, 42 days on foot, and 12 days on bicycle. Nowhere does it mention I might want to fly.
  • As of today (but not necessarily in the future), data-driven doesn’t mean the data does the driving for you. I still have to drive – at least for now.
  • Data-driven doesn’t say anything about the quality of the journey. If I’m going to drive across the country, I’ll probably want to stop and see some things along the way. These are diversions, reductions in efficiency, but they are necessary if I want to not go insane driving 3,089 miles.

Data-driven is the smart use of data to help you get where you want to go.


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