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Jim Baer on Data-Driven Businesses

Jim Baer, a senior director of Data Science with LinkedIn, recently discussed what he considers the four keys to data-driven business. He explained that data today can and should have a tremendous impact on a company’s success.  Though every business varies, and getting involved in the data world appears a daunting task, companies can benefit greatly by assessing their individual goals and resources. According to Baer, there are four basic pillars upon which businesses should base their approach:

1. Build the Right Data Infrastructure for the Company’s Goals. Baer explains that a solid data infrastructure is the fundamental source of data which will help a company make decisions. However, creating a data infrastructure involves numerous different factors. “There will always be trade-offs between the cost of collecting an wielding data and the benefit for business goals,” he says. “For example, a gaming company may want to collect all of the data on how users play its games in order to create effective features and grow the business. This will require investing in a huge relational database that allows those building the games to ask a broad variety of questions.” Other businesses have different needs, depending on their market and client-base.

Baer suggests approaching the data infrastructure investment with specific goals in mind, as well as a certain degree of flexibility which will allow the infrastructure to grow and shift as the business evolves.

2. Democratize Data Throughout the Company. “Data infrastructure investments won’t provide value unless the data collected is accessible,” Baer says. “The more people who can access and use data to measure performance, evaluate improvements, and learn about the business and customers’ patterns, the better.”

3.   Enable Experimentation. Tools that allow experimentation are crucial, according to Baer. These allow a company to test innovations and treatments, as well as learn from performance data, before any high-stake decisions are made.

“The best experimentation systems will streamline the creation and tracking of test groups, treatments, and results to help simplify the process and scale it across an organization,” Baer explains.

4. Foster a Data-Driven Culture. Such a culture incorporates data in already-familiar processes, and encourages all employees to become more involved in experimentation and innovation. This culture can be supported by constantly consulting the data when decisions are being made. New programs and features should also be backed by data.



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