This guest article originally appeared on VTS's blog.

Data is playing a much larger role in business these days, especially in day-to-day business operations. With the Internet of Things, companies can measure every aspect of their business at a truly amazing and granular level. CRE is no stranger to this data-everywhere approach to business. In fact, as a leader, not being fluent in data is quickly becoming a liability in today’s business environment.

With the tools available to us, we finally have a chance to actually know way more about our companies than we used to — even compared with just a few years ago. With this information, we can solve the questions and distractions we put on ourselves (and our team members). It's liberating!

Having said this, I recently read an article from the Kellogg School of Management from which my takeaway was that many business leaders are just overwhelmed by all the data and metrics they need to keep up with. I know I am. So, what are we going to do about it? How can we stay relevant and understand the data, as well as use it to make strategic and valuable business decisions? 

Here are a few thoughts from me, the CRE guy, turned data freak:

#1. Don’t over tech it

The same Kellogg School article suggests that leaders should not “over tech” it — the author calls this a “working knowledge” of data science; being able to separate good data from bad, and knowing where analytics can add value to your business. I think “make it simple, stupid” applies here. If someone has to train you to use it, run for the hills!

Having a working knowledge of analytics and the data presented to you can have a major impact on your ability to make decisions. It’s allowed me to sleep better at night. For so long we have had to do a lot of hoping and praying that everything was what we thought — but not anymore.

#2. Do data with purpose

One of the biggest mistakes people make with data collection is gathering data just because they can. It’s easy to go overboard. Do data with purpose — collect specific data with a specific purpose in mind so you can prevent yourself from burnout and actually succeed.

If you want to know how productive a certain program or campaign is, collect data strictly for that purpose. Analyze it. Make decisions. Move on. 

The key is finding the platform that allows your organization to change with ease. Once you have the data, you can attack different parts of the operation to create what you want to see — and get the answers in real time. What a novel idea! CREtech has been waiting for this for a long time. Thankfully, it’s sitting right in front of us.

#3. Give Your team power

I’ve talked at length about my belief that when you give your team members ownership over their roles, you create a happier work environment where your team members can thrive and actually enjoy their work. 

Gamificationcollaboration, company-wide hackathons — these are the ways to energize your team, gather the data you need, gain valuable insights from your on-the-ground team members, and more.

#4. Don’t expect data to reveal the future

Remember, data is a collection of metrics on past and current events — not events of the future. Your intuition as a leader, combined with an understanding of information in real time will help you predict the future. But, it’s not set in stone. 

Be fluid. Be agile. Be ready to pivot as you learn more about what you’re seeing.

Making Data Work for You

Leaders have a lot of plates to juggle. While understanding and mastering the data around you is certainly one “plate,” when done right, it can help you juggle the rest. And who doesn’t want that? 

Want more on this topic? You might also enjoy: 5 Ways Senior Leaders Can Use Data to Inspire