One of the key developments in technology in recent years that a growing number of companies are looking at is, of course, data analytics. But it is often the case that firms that come into this area without a clear understanding of what results they expect will not make a success of these initiatives.

It was noted by Hugh Reynolds, chief executive of Swrve, in an article for VentureBeat that the trap many businesses fall into is viewing analytics as an end in itself. However, this is the wrong way of thinking. He observed that if the chief executives of every Fortune 500 firm are asked what the single most important thing to their organization is, analytics is unlikely to be mentioned as an answer.

Instead, bosses will talk about being responsive to customer needs, having strong innovation in product design, improved delivery or better sales and marketing strategies. This may seem like a fairly disparate set of goals, but Mr Reynolds noted that what they all have in common is a reliance on analytics. He said: "Analytics is always in the background and is a core component of any sound business practice."

However, he warned that despite this prominence, senior personnel need to be wary of believing that big data analytics alone will be a sure-fire route to success for their company. Mr Reynolds stated that these technologies must be backed up with a clear understanding of how they will help firms meet specific challenges, as well as ensuring the right staff are in place to make the most of the solutions.

"Large amounts of analyzed data will simply gather dust unless you have a crack team of analysts who can extract key insights that will spur engineering, marketing, or sales to take action," the expert said.

He added that while many analytical technology solutions have the capability to compile large and varied amounts of information, this will be worthless unless a business is able to use this to inform actionable decisions. 

Mr Reynolds said that the proper way to look at this should not be to ask: "What should I do with all this data?" Instead, they need to be asking: "What insights do I need to properly support activities that will drive retention and conversion?"

This is about much more than semantics, as knowing the right areas on which to concentrate right from the start of the process will help firms build a much more focused solution that meets the needs of the business.

"Focus on the goal that will help you to convert prospects, retain and engage users and build a sustainable revenue stream," Mr Reynolds said. "Your goal isn't going to be to 'possess a lot of interesting data', it should be results-focused."

Therefore, analytics needs to be a solution that drives the core key performance indicators (KPIs) of an organizations. It should provide firms with the necessary context for activities such as optimizing and testing the user experience, targeting marketing campaigns and anything else that a company might do to convert potential customers into satisfied clients that retain their loyalty.