Leveraging data to drive business decisions

Data is shaping the world. It is having a profound impact on businesses, governments, charities and individuals alike,  changing the way we live, work, talk, share, sleep, interact and learn. For businesses and charities it is helping to improve their products and services, allowing them to make better decisions and target their marketing more effectively, while governments are improving public services and making better policy decisions. Individuals, meanwhile, are able to make better financial decisions, stay healthy, and connect with friends and family.

The growth of data is evident:

  • The amount of data created in the world doubles every two years
  • By 2025, the world will have generated 175 zettabytes of data
  • 90 per cent of the world’s current data has been created in the last two years
  • 70 per cent of all data is unstructured
  • 80 per cent of all data resides in the cloud

The amount of data available to businesses is growing at an unprecedented rate. This is accelerating a new era of data-driven decision-making, with those that can harness the true power of data putting themselves at a significant competitive advantage.

The growth of data is a major challenge – just think of the storage required – but it also presents a great opportunity. By harnessing the power of data, we can create a better future for ourselves and for the world. This new paradigm necessitates a shift towards data-driven decision making, powered by robust technologies like the Microsoft Cloud technology stack.

The Microsoft Cloud technology stack, which consists of services such as Azure, Power BI, and Microsoft 365, provides comprehensive tools that enable businesses to harness the power of their data effectively. Let’s explore how businesses can leverage these tools to extract meaningful insights and drive informed business decisions.


Utilising Azure for data storage and management

We firmly believe that Microsoft Azure stands head and shoulders above the rest as a premier cloud computing service – that why we do what we do. The data storage, analytics, and machine learning capabilities it offers are unparalleled.

When it comes to driving business decisions with data, there is no denying the sheer importance of data quality, its ease of accessibility, and its effective management. Azure not only meets these requirements – it smashes them out of the park while offering scalable storage solutions that adjust effortlessly to your business needs.

The list goes on – its data management capabilities are nothing short of stellar, allowing for streamlined and efficient data handling, and its advanced data analytics tools are a true game-changer, providing the power to extract meaningful insights from your data. Azure is the gold standard in the realm of cloud computing services.

Azure is the world leader for reliable, scalable and secure data storage platforms. By utilising the following technologies, it will transform how your business handles, stores and maximises its data.

  • Azure Blob Storage is a highly scalable and durable object storage service that can be used to store any type of unstructured data, such as images, videos, and text files. This benefits from unrivalled scalability and durability to meet the needs of even the most demanding workloads and events.
  • Azure SQL Database is a highly reliable platform, with a 99.9 per cent uptime service level agreement. It provides a relational database service that can be used to store and manage more structured data, making it a good choice for storing data that needs to be accessed and referenced frequently.
  • Azure Data Lake Storage is a scalable and secure data lake storage service that can be used to store and manage both structured and unstructured data. It’s a great choice for storing large amounts of data that need to be processed in a variety of ways.


Leveraging Power BI for data visualisation

Being able to visualise your data truly unlocks its potential, making understanding complex datasets and extracting meaningful insights a much simpler process. Microsoft Power BI is a business analytics tool that crafts raw data into understandable and visually appealing information.

By integrating Power BI with Azure, companies can create interactive dashboards and reports that present real-time insights into business operations. This visual representation allows for easier interpretation of data, which leads to quicker and more accurate decision-making.


Creating interactive dashboards

  • Power BI dashboards allow users to interact with data in real time. This means that users can drill down into data, filter it, and slice it to see different perspectives with a level of interactivity the helps users to better understand the data and, ultimately, make more informed decisions.
  • Power BI offers a variety of data visualisations that can be used to represent data in engaging ways for a variety of audiences.


Improve collaboration with Microsoft 365 and Power Platform

You shouldn’t make business-critical decisions alone – and with Microsoft 365’s range of cloud-based productivity tools, there’s no need to:

  • Microsoft Planner is a task management tool that can be used to create and track tasks. You can assign tasks to team members, set deadlines, and track their progress, helping to keep everyone on the same page and ensure that projects are completed on time. For example, a sales team can use Microsoft Planner to create a task management plan for a new sales campaign, helping the team to stay on track and to meet their sales goals.
  • Microsoft Power Automate is a low-code/no-code automation platform that can be used to automate repetitive tasks, freeing up time for team members to focus on more important tasks. A finance team could, for example, use Power Automate to create a workflow that automatically extracts data from financial reports, which can then be used to create new reports and dashboards that enable better financial decision making.
  • Microsoft SharePoint is a document management system that can be used to store, organise, and share documents in collaborative workspaces. This can help to improve efficiency and reduce the risk of losing important documents. This could be a customer service team using SharePoint to create a shared workspace where team members can collaborate on customer inquiries, allowing the team to resolve issues more quickly and efficiently.
  • Microsoft Teams is a cloud-based collaboration platform that brings people together to chat, share files, and work on projects together across teams, departments and locations. This can help to break down silos and improve communication and collaboration, especially in today’s hybrid-first working environment.


Maximising data-driven decision-making with Microsoft Fabric

Microsoft Fabric is the stitching together of Microsoft Azure tools. It represents the next evolution in data analytics and business intelligence, creating a singular, unified platform that is designed to empower businesses to leverage their data effectively, streamline analytics processes, and ultimately make more informed, data-driven decisions.


1. Unified analytics platform

Fabric is an end-to-end analytics platform that consolidates the capabilities of Azure Data Factory, Azure Synapse Analytics, and Power BI into one cohesive product. This integration significantly simplifies the process of extracting insights from data and presenting it to business users, eliminating the need for complex integrations between multiple products from different vendors. With Fabric, all the necessary capabilities for data-driven decision-making are available in one place, with a unified experience and architecture.


2. Core workloads

Fabric includes seven core workloads, each offering a unique set of capabilities for data and analytics. These workloads cover everything from data engineering to real-time analytics and AI-driven analytics, providing businesses with the tools they need to make data-driven decisions. With these workloads, businesses can orchestrate data pipelines, build sophisticated AI models, analyse real-time data, and visualise insights, all within a single platform.


3. OneLake: the OneDrive for data

One particularly unique feature of Fabric is OneLake, a multi-cloud data lake that is automatically available to every Fabric tenant. OneLake allows businesses to centralise their data, making it easier to discover, share, and govern. By eliminating data silos, OneLake ensures that all relevant information is available for analysis, thereby enabling more comprehensive and accurate data-driven decisions.


4. Scalability and security

Because it is built with scalability and security in mind, Fabric is capable of handling the needs of businesses of all sizes, and its robust security and governance framework ensures that data is always protected and compliant with relevant regulations.

By integrating the powerful tools of Azure Data Factory, Azure Synapse Analytics, and Power BI, Fabric enables businesses to effectively harness their data, streamline their analytics processes, and ultimately make more informed, data-driven decisions. This unified analytics platform is a significant step forward in the evolution of data analytics and business intelligence, providing businesses with the comprehensive tools they need to truly become data-driven​.


Data governance and quality control: a foundation for data-driven decision making

Effective data governance and quality control are critical components in making informed, data-driven decisions. They provide the necessary assurance that the data being used to inform these decisions is accurate, reliable, secure and up-to-date. Let’s explore how data governance and quality control support data-driven decision making.


1. Data governance

Data governance encompasses the processes, roles, policies, and technologies that organisations use to manage and ensure the quality of their data. By defining clear data ownership, data access rules, and data standards, data governance enables organisations to maintain consistent, high-quality data across the organisation.

For example, in the context of Microsoft Fabric, OneLake’s unified data storage system enforces policy and security settings centrally, ensuring that the right people have access to the right data. This data governance feature not only protects sensitive information but also facilitates efficient data sharing and collaboration, which are crucial for effective decision making.


2. Data quality control

Data quality control involves checking data for accuracy and consistency to ensure it is reliable and can be used to make informed decisions. Without proper quality control, inaccurate or inconsistent data can lead to flawed insights and poor business decisions.

An example of this could be a retail company using Fabric to analyse customer purchasing behaviour. If the data used in the analysis is of a poor quality, incorrect insights might be generated, such as overestimating the popularity of a certain product. However, with effective quality control processes in place, the company can be confident in the accuracy of their data and the insights derived from it.


3. Support for Data-Driven Decisions

Data governance and quality control provide a robust framework that supports data-driven decision making in several ways:

    • Reliability: They ensure the data used in decision-making processes is accurate, consistent, and trustworthy
    • Compliance: They help organisations adhere to data protection laws and regulations, mitigating legal and financial risks
    • Efficiency: They streamline data management processes, making it easier for business users to find and use the data they need
    • Security: They protect sensitive data from unauthorised access, maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of the data

For instance, in a healthcare setting, data security and compliance would be critical. Patient data must be handled with strict adherence to regulations. In the UK alone, legislation governing the use and protection of personal data, including health information, is enshrined in the Data Protection Act of 2018, an act which also incorporates the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Data governance and quality control measures should ensure that such sensitive information is securely managed and accurately maintained, in turn supporting the healthcare provider’s data-driven decisions.


So, what is next?

The Microsoft Cloud technology stack provides a comprehensive solution for companies looking to leverage data in their business decisions. By offering scalable data storage, advanced analytics, insightful customer data, and collaborative tools, Microsoft empowers businesses to truly make the most of their data.

However, leveraging these tools effectively requires a deep understanding of each tool’s capabilities and a strategic approach to data management. It is about transforming the culture of a business, to value and rely on its data, encouraging curiosity, and fostering a willingness to make decisions based on the information at hand, rather than instinct.

The Microsoft Cloud technology stack is a powerful ally and, when paired with the right partner, you can unlock the full potential of your data to drive business success.


Written by

Leon Godwin
Principal Cloud Evangelist
LinkedIn | Twitter