We all are obsessed about data. Attend any industry meeting and the one common discussion topic heard among distributors is, “How are you doing with your data analytics?”

We measure our success as business leaders based on how our numbers come in at the end of the quarter or end of the year. But more and more, owners and leaders are using data to make critical decisions. Purchasing, market-entry and resource-allocation decisions are being made after careful analysis of data that distributors (and manufacturers) have access to. This does not diminish the reliance on our “gut-feeling” that many successful leaders use in making decisions. Many of us have been very successful listening to our gut feeling cultivated from a lifetime of lessons we‘ve learned from making those successful and not-so-successful decisions.

But as our industry and economic factors challenge us and our teams at an exponential rate, relying on our gut to make decisions has become more dangerous. More and more, we need better and more conclusive data to support our decision-making process.

There are three keys to leveraging data to sharpen our decisions. The first is sourcing the data we rely on, which probably is the biggest concern for most of us. We are inundated with data from a countless number of sources, many of whom we don’t have a strong familiarity or confidence in. Choosing the right sets of data from the right sources is one of the most critical factors in making data-driven decisions.

The second is the need to sync the data we have with our key team members and frontline managers to enhance their intuitive tools and interfaces with data to help them with their jobs and their decisions.

The final key is to strengthen our organizations’ ability to objectively understand and act on the data we develop. Finally, does our team understand and trust the data and have the ability to act on that data? Is our company’s culture engrained to look for and act on data in making decisions?

ASA has invested greater resources this year to expand the value of our Business Intelligence support to assist members with their decision-making process. We have the most robust and trusted business-intelligence tools offered by any association. Our five BI reports provide our members with important data to make sound purchasing, employee-compensation and competitive-analytics decisions. Our annual Operating Performance Report, Compensation Wage Survey, monthly economic and sales reports and commodity updates provide our members with a trusted source for just the data they need to run their businesses.

This year we also have added a key association business analyst staff member who is working on expanding our business data and reporting function even more, thus enhancing the value and dependability of our reports.

As we continue to be challenged by external disruptive forces, the more we can move our culture to one that champions flexible and nimble organizations that make sound decisions, the greater our guarantee of long-term success.

Making short-term enhancements to your data-driven decisions such as improving your data sourcing, enhancing your analytics and deepening your cultures to depend more on data can help keep your company ahead of the trends that will significantly impact your businesses today and in the years to come.

ASA has and is continuing to develop many of these tools as we speak so we can assist our members in achieving this goal.