Creating a Data-Driven Practice

The idea that data is important for driving decisions is not new. That said, I think that in a time when we are immersed in dashboards and business intelligence, the actual benefits get overlooked. If you’re like most advisors, you have a lot of data available to you, but are you able to access it in a digestible format—and is it adding value to your practice?

Do you know what percent of your annual revenue is made up by your top ten clients? Do you know which client relationships you invest the most time and money in? How about projected revenues based on your lead pipeline, or ROI on your marketing initiatives? 

Don’t make guesstimates. Do you know the actual facts? 

These are important questions to ask, and the answers to these questions can and should be answered by data, not your opinion. The path towards allowing business intelligence to drive effective decision making requires that you have data, in a useable format; and it requires that you foster a dedication to being objective for the long-term success of your practice.

Data

The most important piece of the equation is clean, useable data. If you don’t have your systems integrated with each other, you are either spending too much time (and therefore money!) updating multiple systems to keep data consistent; or (more likely) there is variation across the systems you use, causing confusion and frustration for you, your staff and your clients. 

As technology has evolved, it has gotten easier and easier to bring data together. If data aggregation and business intelligence are important to you, it is important that the systems you use have open APIs and robust integration options. This allows for simple, real-time data connections and provides you the best foundation to create the next layer of your decision-making stack.

Dashboards

Dashboards are aggregated visualizations of disparate data sets. A good dashboard will funnel data from various sources and synthesize raw data into something that is easily interpreted. Looking at raw data can limit your abilities to maximize value. 

For example, if you look at a spreadsheet with hundreds or thousands of rows of data, you might be able to pick out a few interesting things (if you are really paying attention). Maybe. However, with a dashboard you are able to apply data analysis on top of that raw data to create visualizations that make it easy to see patterns or anomalies and bring insights to the surface more easily.

Decisions

Making decisions can be difficult; making good decisions, even more so. While each person brings their own motivations and reasoning to the table, at our core we all have a desire to reduce risk and increase value. Oftentimes, our emotions or feelings drive our actions, but in business that isn’t always the most effective option.

How do you do make decisions today? How do you decide if you should expand into a new line of business, or hire some new talent? Or perhaps, when do you decide that it is time trim your clientele to focus on more high net worth clients; and who would you trim?

Instead of just using your intuition, bring data to the table. Not only will this alleviate pressure in your decision-making, but will also improve quality, helping you to maximize the value of your decision.

The reality is that in the busyness of running a practice, the gathering and analysis of business data can often go by the wayside to things that are more pressing in the short term. However, the return on using data to understand where you are and guide where you want to go, is far higher in the long term.