Taming the data that dominates our work lives

April 14, 2011: 1:02 PM ET

We are nearing the point where every manager will have to use some form of data to support even the most mundane business decisions. Here's how to take advantage of the information.

By Kishore S. Swaminathan, guest contributor

FORTUNE -- A few months ago, I received a memo saying that employees in my facility at Accenture must keep their offices clean, subject to regular inspections. As it happens, I am fairly tidy, but I wanted to understand if there was any data to show that clean offices lead to higher productivity.

Not surprisingly, my request was sidestepped, and I was told, "Kishore, clean offices leave better impressions with visiting customers."

That sounded reasonable, so I asked if there was any data to show that our customers are more likely to buy our services or view us more favorably after visiting our clean offices. Now I was wasting people's time on what should be obvious, and a few colleagues even suggested that I move on.

In today's highly competitive global business environment, how you should use data to support your decisions -- large and small -- is exactly the kind of conversation that organizations should be having. And with advances in business analytics, there is every reason to make well-informed decisions since supporting data is, in many cases, readily available at your fingertips. More

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