Do you have the information you need to lead?

by Melissa Cafiero

As an executive, you know there’s power in data. Having access to the right data helps you build your business, make decisions, and lead your organization to success.

But amidst the board meetings, strategy sessions, and decision-making, you might struggle to find the time to make sense of big data, which often leads to information overload and prevents you from making effective decisions.

Here are four ways business leaders like you can make sense of the data and ensure you have the information you need to run a successful organization.

An image of a stopwatch to indicate data availability in real time

1. Stay updated with real-time data

By its very nature, data is always out of date, because it’s reflective of something that already happened. And usually there’s a gap between when it happened and when the resulting data — plus its analysis — reaches you at the executive level.

Business leaders need to have the latest, most accurate information as soon as it’s available. Acting on outdated data included in an aging slide deck could put your business at risk. Operating with old, inaccurate information means you could make the wrong decision based on bad data, which could have negative effects on the business.

Having an executive dashboard at your fingertips that shows data and updates as they happen keeps you informed, aligned, and nimble — able to quickly make decisions and adjust your strategy.


An image of a lightbulb with sparks shooting out from the bulb

2. Understand the data in context

Data can serve as the backbone to decision-making, but is less effective without the meaning and context that’s best provided by line of business (LOB) owners across the organization. Even more important, business leaders need to understand the nuances behind data trends.

For example, if company sales dip in the summer, does that mean you need to radically overhaul your sales efforts? Maybe not. Knowing whether the sales dip happened before, and being able to identify patterns and possible seasonality in business performance, helps leaders avoid making costly and unnecessary program adjustments — like radically downsizing the sales team — while planning for the future.


A silhouette of a person's head with connected dots comprising the brain

3. Predict the future with data

Business leaders need to know what is most likely to happen before a bump in the road catches them off-guard. Are high-level projects on track? Will sales fluctuate? Will the LOBs hit their targets on time?

Much like understanding data in context, looking at data with a future-focused mindset can give executives the ability to predict the future of their business and protect against expected challenges. Take the seasonality in sales example from above. Looking at the last few years’ data, you should be able to tell there’s going to be a sales dip in summer. If you know that a slump is just around the corner, how might a strategically-timed marketing campaign bolster revenue before heading into the summer or even level out the dip during the slower summer months?


An image of three arrows pointing up, layered one on top of the other, with the top-most arrow in dark blue

4. Aggregate insights from across your organization

Executives are required to have the ability to manage the business in a big picture view. How does a change in human resources impact operations? How might missed sales targets impact culture? If a strategic adjustment is made today, how does that affect the entire business six or 18 months from now?

Being able to aggregate data and insights from across the entire organization — not solely in a single LOB — gives executives the capability to make smarter decisions and lead with the right information. Incorporating enterprise-wide data — in an executive dashboard, for example — provides a succinct, all-in-one view to inform decisions.

Leverage data beyond the C-suite

If having the right data at the right time at an executive level helps you make more informed decisions faster, imagine how the availability of that data given to your entire organization can help every LOB, manager, or individual contributor work more effectively.

Visit the Smartsheet leadership page to learn more and make data start working for you — and your organization — today.