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Article author: Juho Muhonen 26th January 2018

Are you just randomly googling to use web data?

The odds are that you have googled something related to your work today. Have you stopped to analyse where and how web data could be automatically used in your decision making processes? Here are 4 reasons web data remains an underutilised asset.

There is an unimaginable amount of web data available on the open web. There exists home pages, wiki pages, web stores, presentations, social media posts, public procurements, weather forecasts, statistics about society, cat videos, news to mention a few.

Every google search made during a work day depicts an opportunity for automation. External web data is already being used for making better investment decisions, measuring the success of external communication, generating b2b leads and benchmarking your business. Because web data exists in such large volumes it would be natural to assume that analytics based on web data would be ubiquitous as well. This isn’t the case and here’s why:

Reason 1: The management is not interested in data driven decision making

This is actually more of an excuse than a valid reason and is related to ignorance and change aversion or has to do with too sweet of a monopoly position. There’s vast amounts of evidence and research that show that measuring, analysing and systematic approach to your own business leads to better decision making in both sales and r&d. The only advice you can give to this kind of management is – change yourselves or the change will eat your business alive.

Reason 2: A business is not mature enough to use even it’s own internal data

There are and always will be businesses where data driven decision making is not a thing. However, in most modern companies data driven decision making is something that is valued and pursued.

Data driven decision making almost always means that the key people in the company are advised to do better decision based on the internal data available in the businesses own CRM or ERP. Analysing the internal data first is natural first step on a businesses journey towards data driven decision making. The easiest opportunities and low hanging fruits are achievable through thorough analysis of one’s own internal data.

The easiest opportunities and low hanging fruits are achievable through thorough analysis of one’s own internal data.

The majority of businesses are starting to take their first steps on their journey to data driven businesses and the support and services they most require at this stage are related to cleaning up, reporting, visualising their own internal data and then getting the data to drive existing decision making processes more efficiently. External data is usually not usable to the yet and these businesses will continue googling for now.

Reason 3: The benefits and value of external data are not understood

In addition to business battling with internal data there are businesses that are routinely using analysis of internal data as a way to support decision making and drive change in processes.

These businesses are ready to start using external data within their organisations. There are vast amounts of internal data, but the volumes pale in comparison to the gigantic amount of data that is available online on open web. Because the volumes of external data are so immense the number of opportunities to take advantage of it are also almost limitless.

As a consequence, a decision maker that is used to utilise internal data sometimes gets confused by the sheer volume of data and number of opportunities. So what can you do with the external web data?

So what can you do with the external web data?

The same things that you do with the internal data – better decisions. For example, in businesses that use their CRM data to drive decisions in sales you can use external data to further increase conversions or time your sales better:

Companies are leaving digital footprints on the open web on a daily basis. Businesses have home and product pages, businesses are mentioned in news and increasing number of businesses are present in social media. This external data is extremely valuable for b-to-b sales in terms of finding new customers, timing customer contacts or understanding your key customers better. The digital footprint of a company can be integrated, for example, with an existing prospecting process. Instead of googling you can use a search engine designed specifically for generating b-to-b leads or you can integrate the data feeds directly to your existing CRM.

The the example above, you can easily measure the value of external data if your business already routinely measures the sales pipeline. For example, less time spent on prospecting or increased conversion percentages are both provable and monetizable values.

Sales is only one of the many functions of a business where you can generate value by utilising external data. The vast amount of opportunities may be difficult to grasp at first, but by asking yourself or your colleagues what are you googling, can give you valuable hints. The answers to the question may reveal where external data is already being used within your company – only not in an automated way.

Reason 4: External data is messy

Businesses that routinely use internal data and have identified opportunities to use external data are usually the ones that are making the best decisions, beating the competition and driving the change in data driven decision making.

The problem within these companies when it comes to utilising external data is that external web data is fragmented, heterogeneous and unstructured. Additionally here are huge volumes that can cause scalability issues. The messiness of web data makes it costly to utilise the data.

The messiness of web data makes it costly to utilise the data.

Luckily there are companies that are focused on solving this problem. Their mission is to help other companies take full advantage of web data  with reasonable cost. Some companies provide search engines designed to support a single use case in a signle industry, some are more generalists and focus on bringing the value of web data for all.

If you look, you can probably find a good partner for you as long as you have already identified where external data can be utilised in your business. Even if you haven’t, contacting a partner that can help you with identifying opportunities is with external data is the smart thing to do

Internal data + External data = Smart data