It’s all about numbers now. Data rules our lives 24*7 and there’s no getting away from it. It has altered the way economies run, how businesses make decisions, and what choices even the lay population opts for. The data-decision making tools help one and all in making well, better-informed decisions, and get the best out of available resources. So how really has our day-to-day life changed thanks to this newly found number-crunching technique?

While most of us largely tend to believe that data-driven transformation has only affected business processes, in reality, it has also made a huge impact on our personal lives as well. Let me give you an example. I see so many of us these days invariably having a wearable device – fitness tracking ones such as FitBit, Runtastic, then smart watches like those of Apple Watch and the Pebble watch. These devices track data to provide us with some of the most accurate, personalised information about our daily activities. Furthermore, there are other data-driven tracking apps such as AmpStrip which looks like a band-aid and if you stick it to your chest, it can monitor your heart rate and send the information to your smartphone. Have you also checked the Headspace app? It apparently scores high on reducing stress, improving the user’s mood, and reducing depression, basically falling under the mindfulness app category. There are also numerous apps which help us track and manage the number of calories we consume through the day so that we can stay on our weight management goals. That is what data-driven technology has given us – simply making any kind of choice an informed decision. People are tracking, measuring, sharing and displaying everything from sleep, exercise, location, productivity, food, mindfulness, or even mood.

Data analytics has shown a positive impact across multiple areas for individuals – we now have a choice of opting for personalised treatments, we can have tailor-made courses delivered at their doorstep for further education, or we just expect the right products to be suggested to us on online sites based on our preferences.

I think a few things have contributed to this – one, sensors have become smaller and more accessible. Secondly, the proliferation of mobile devices – everyone is carrying these high computing devices with them all the time. And thirdly, social media has made sharing and collaboration extremely convenient and fun!

Data-driven companies have become valuable

Industry sectors such as manufacturing, telecom, and healthcare are some of the biggest beneficiaries of data analytics. Businesses which have gone the data-driven way are doing great especially in terms of staying ahead of the competition. Technology is paving the way for innovation in IoT and digital preferences of consumers. Data-driven analytics simplifies the humongous amount of information that is generated in the course of business.

I believe that this has resulted in improved performances of businesses as well as individuals. According to the MIT Center for Digital Business, businesses which opt for data-driven decision making have 4% higher productivity rates and 6% higher profits. A recent study by S&P Capital IQ titled “Top 10 Companies with Highest Market Capitalisation Worldwide” found that 6 of the 10 companies are data-driven. The top ranking one is Apple with $741 billion market capitalisation followed by Alphabet with $585 billion and Microsoft with $505 billion. Interestingly, Microsoft, in 2011, had a market capitalization of $218 billion. From there in April 2017 it has jumped to $505 billion. There are also new entrants such as the Alibaba Group with $278 billion, this year. That says a lot about how these companies have reaped benefits by turning to data-driven decision management.

Is data truly everything?

While I agree that being data-driven is how things need to be to progress, I also must admit that there are certain times when we should still rely on instinct and emotion to make a final decision. The human brain and mind are enough programmed to discern the information received. Thus, sometimes maybe the data might not be enough to give a complete picture or a report might be biased on how it is collected. At such times, it is important to consider the analysis completely from all viewpoints before arriving at a conclusion.

On that note, I recollect a lovely line from the book Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. He says, “Our world requires that decisions be sourced and footnoted, and if we say how we feel, we must also be prepared to elaborate on why we feel that way. We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that – sometimes – we are better off that way”. Something to think about, right?