Data is the new oil!
What that means at SpotHero.com
Last night, CEO Mark Lawrence came over to my desk here at SpotHero.com after reading a report, which I and a co-worker (Ryan) had put together, to exclaim: “Data is the new oil!”
It’s a phrase that I’ve heard before, but never put much thought into, passing it off as another business euphemism, like “big data” or “information revolution.” Words with lots of buzz, but significantly less meaning. However, after pondering the phrase, I think it’s the best way to explain the power that data presents – and why most businesses are using it wrong.
When we think about life before the Industrial Revolution, humans were limited by the output of their bodies, and oil empowered employees to take on tasks that, individually, they could not have done in the past. Trains, powered by a few engineers, could now do the work of an entire caravan. Factories, powered by a few assembly workers, could produce more than ever before.
Some business leaders were quick to identify this opportunity and made this resource available to as many people within their organization as possible. After all, the people who could benefit the most from oil were at the fringe of the organization – labor that could be made more effective at their jobs through the use of machines.
The same is true of data.
The impact of data on a company is limited only by the number of people who have access to it. Yet, many managers in today’s business environment are hesitant to provide access to this strategic resource. Why? Data doesn’t just give employees the abilities to do their job better. It gives them the ability to self-manage, and that is a scary thought to many bosses who want to maintain absolute control over their team.
So, what do these managers do, when faced with an abundance of data? They mandate reporting frameworks and processes that lead back to one place: themselves. Their team spends time and effort preparing an endless supply of documents and slide decks, only to slam into the bottleneck that is their managers’ capacity to consume information and make decisions.
Nowhere was this more apparent than at my last job at Nielsen. As an analyst, I worked with a range of companies; some were great, others… not so much. When working with the successful teams, our goal was to learn about the market for a new product and refine an initial idea. When working with other companies, we would run entire research studies (north of $50k) just to “please the boss.” They have doubled the labor and cost needed to make a decision, and ultimately that decision still rests with one person – the boss.
SpotHero is still an 80-person company, well short of the size when layers of bureaucracy normally begin to ensnare a team. I can’t say what the future holds. However, I’m encouraged by one of the “bullets” in our slightly cheesy parking-themed values statement: Act like you’re in the driver’s seat.
It means that we as employees are supposed to take initiative and make decisions ourselves. To act, rather than waiting for approval. To take chances, measure success, learn from our mistakes, and keep on driving forward.
So a couple weeks ago, when Ryan and I noticed that prices in one of our key markets were climbing, we came up with a game plan to identify and rein in those increases. Then, when our CEO came to us a few days later noticing a minor hiccup in performance, we were able to tell him about the solution that was already in progress.
By giving employees access to data and the permission to act upon their intuition, SpotHero has empowered us to accelerate the pace at which our company can make informed decisions. Rather than waiting for orders, we were able to anticipate the needs of our team before they became a problem.
Data empowered us to do things that we previously would not have been able to. Data is, indeed, oil – but only when our leaders treat it as such.
Contact SpotHero Sales Analyst Michael McCarthy through www.spothero.com.