/ Why You Need Answers Before Your Questions Arise

Back when handheld GPS units were relatively new, I purchased one for hiking. I was really looking forward to using it to discover some new backpacking routes in the Uintas. One weekend I drove out to a popular trailhead and fired up the GPS. To my great annoyance, I discovered that it didn’t have the pre-loaded trail maps I thought it had. To avoid the risk of getting lost in the unfamiliar terrain, I decided to drive all the way back home and install the maps—which cost me the better part of a day.

Lesson learned? Not having what you need, when you need it is a real PITA.

Amazon.com is a prime example of an organization that truly understands that pain. In a widely publicized move, the online retail giant filed a patent for what it calls “anticipatory shipping”—essentially a way for Amazon to ship you products before you even order them. Logistical hurdles aside, Amazon gets it. Their team gets that the consumer wants instant gratification. They get that their consumer hates the idea of wanting something, then having to wait two or more days to get it. That’s why they’re launching drones and pioneering concepts like this anticipatory shipping. They want to deliver what you need as fast as humanly (or robotically) possible. I admire that.

In business, it should be no different. When I have questions, I don’t want to spend the next two hours—or days—chasing down the answers. I want that information to already exist in a format that’s accessible, consumable, and current. Is that too much to ask? It shouldn’t be. Here are four steps to ensure you’re getting answers before your questions even arise:

  1. Know what data you need. When you’re executing your daily, quarterly and yearly initiatives, what data do you rely on? Taking the time to identify these specific data sets is a critical first step.
  2. Bring it together. When you’re wanting quick answers, the last thing you want to do is chase down information. You’ll want the aforementioned data piped into one convenient location where it’s accessible at a moment’s notice.
  3. Keep it current. Bringing it together once doesn’t cut it. Data gets stale real fast, rendering it unreliable unless it’s up to date.
  4. Make it actionable. So you have all your information in one place. Is it actually useful? Can it be arranged, and sliced and diced in such a way that it can provide answers on the fly?

In the age of instant search engines and anticipatory shipping, it’s crazy how long people wait for their own business data. If, like me, you’re not okay with the status quo, I’d suggest you take a look at how Domo’s tackling the problem. [Spoiler alert: It has nothing to do with drones…yet.]