A while back, I was beginning to train for my first marathon. It might come as no surprise, since I'm a business intelligence analyst, that I tracked every single workout in a spreadsheet, three websites, and a notebook. I wore a GPS watch and an activity tracker — both with heart rate monitors — so I could compare. In other words, I was up to my eyeballs in data.

When race day finally arrived, I felt good. I had put the work in, and was ready to enjoy the reward. I ran fast, and exceeded my goal by over 20 minutes. It got me thinking, though.

Did knowing my VO2 max, recovery hours, my average heart rate for a ten-mile run on May 3rd, or the year-over-year performance graph from an annually run 5k make a difference in my race? My success ultimately came from two things: I had a training plan, and I tracked how I performed to that plan — if I ran the miles on the days I said I would. The truth was, I wasn't even looking at any of those other charts and graphs. They were just noise around my end goal.

In the corporate world, there is no shortage of tools promising to take your data and make you more successful. At First Business Bank, we've been on a similar journey. A few years ago, we invested in a business intelligence tool that had all the bells and whistles. We designed incredibly in-depth spaces of data that could present the user with any data fact they could possibly want. The only problem was that our users weren't adopting the tool. Around the nuggets of valuable information, there was an awful lot of noise. 

Fast forward to today: we're revising our approach. Enough with the "Big Data." We’re interested in leveraging the small data that can direct the work we do on a daily basis. We are taking a look at the end goal, and breaking it down into a plan. That plan is then broken down to what we actually have to accomplish day-to-day to make progress. The metrics we present should provide actionable direction for what we need to do next.

It's a simple approach, but we hope it will be the plan that gets us across the finish line ahead of our goal.