If you’re a CEO, a founder or even simply a manager working with one team in a larger organisation, what you do every day is make decisions. Whatever your job title, if you have authority what you are is a decisionmaker and you need to feel confident that you are making good decisions every day.

Decisions that work out well: that make the best use of resources, avoid risks and return a profit are based on information, data and insight. There’s no mincing these words: you need data to make good decisions. Without it, you’re simply guessing, and your experience might steer you well for a while but as soon as you encounter a situation that’s not directly analogous to one you’ve already been through you’re going to run into problems.

Today we’re looking at some of the key data you need to be gathering to make sure your decision making is charting a clear course into a successful future.

External Data

One of the things you need to work hardest on is finding out what’s going on in the wider world outside your company. This is the hardest data to gather: you can find out what your own workers are doing easily, you have the reach to survey your own customers if needs be, but to get insights into the market at large, you need expert help.

A market research company can help you two major ways: they can research and survey consumers to find out how much money they have to spend, where they want to spend it and why (all key data points when you’re designing your offering to be attractive to as many people as possible). They can also find out what your rivals and competitors are doing. This competitive intelligence means you can avoid launching a product at the same time as your rivals, for example, and having them cannibalise your revenue. Just look at the way summer blockbusters jostle in the release schedule, looking for a week to call their own for an example of this competitor intelligence in action.

Internal Data

You need to know exactly what your business is capable of: how much you can deliver, how far and how fast. If your knowledge of your capacity isn’t certain, then when it’s tested you’ll find yourself in trouble. Promising something you can’t deliver is the sure ruination of a relationship, so make sure you’re always gathering data on what your teams can accomplish on any given day: their average output, their work rate when really pushed, and of course just how much you can push them before morale starts to break down.

As you can see if you know your business inside and out you’re well set up to make the choices for it possible.