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5 ways to use data to get ahead at work

Use data to solve problems

Your company’s old software platform is not keeping up with fast-changing times. But while your co-workers just gripe about the problem, you decide to do something about it. The key: having the right data.

“Employees who recognize problems and proactively work to solve them are the ones I want on my team,” says Elaine Earle, a former telecommunications director and faculty member in the University of Phoenix MBA program.

Earle suggests involving your manager from the beginning. “You always want to go through the proper channels when presenting your ideas,” she says. “It’s possible that your manager is aware of the problem and is already working on fixing it.”

Earle explains how you can use data to effect change in the workplace:


Identify the problem.

If you notice that a certain glitch keeps recurring, try to find out why, Earle suggests. “I’m a ‘why’ person,” she says. “People who aren’t afraid to ask why are natural problem-solvers.”

Perhaps the computer program you use every day tends to generate errors around certain tasks. Instead of manually correcting the errors as they occur, a problem-solver searches for ways to fix the program so the errors stop occurring, according to Earle. “That’s called being proactive rather than reactive,” she says.


Include your peers.

Employees who succeed at getting their ideas adopted at work know how to get buy-in from their peers first, Earle notes. “Reach out to your colleagues for input, whether individually, in team meetings or via the company intranet,” she suggests. “Whatever you do, get out of your own little corner of the world to see the larger impact of the problem you want to solve.”


Determine the costs.

Once you’ve identified the problem and its scale, the next step is to find out how much the problem is costing the company, according to Earle, who shares an anecdote from one of her own IT project teams.

“An application analyst [on my IT team] recognized recurring defects in one of our primary software platforms,” she notes. “He compiled a month’s worth of data on commonly occurring errors and then asked a technical architect to help him identify a root cause.”

The two colleagues analyzed their findings and determined the errors were costing the company tens of thousands of dollars per month in unnecessary work. “They armed themselves with [cost] data,” Earle says. “That’s the way to effect change, because it takes the ego out of things.”


Keep your manager in the loop.

After you’ve identified the problem and its potential costs, take that information to your direct supervisor, Earle advises.

If it’s not an issue that’s already being addressed, your manager is better positioned than you are to help get your ideas accepted and implemented companywide, she asserts.


Create a winning presentation.

After collecting the necessary supporting data, you, your colleagues and your supervisor can all work together to develop a presentation that will get your ideas adopted. “Prove the value of your ideas to everyone if you want them to listen to you,” Earle says. “Data is data, so it all starts there.”

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