Is your data driving you mad?

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We all know that data is no longer an option when it comes to running an organization. However, understanding and gaining value from your information is a feat in itself – one that many organizations are struggling with.

Many people feel a bit like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland – having fallen into another world where nothing makes sense.

But the world of data is one all businesses must be prepared to enter.

My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that. – The Queen of Hearts

Business evolves and changes at frightening speeds today. The decision-making window has gone from weeks to days or just hours. It is more important than ever for business people to be able to make quick, confident decisions.

I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then. – Alice

However, how is it possible to make solid decisions when what we know is shifting so quickly around us? Like Alice, in the course of a day the environment your organization operates in can drastically change – changes in the market, new innovations, aggressive competition, and internal adjustments.

Sometimes I believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast. – Alice

In the past, we relied on gut or instinct, knowledge and past experience to make decisions, propose ideas and chart the direction of our organizations. And there’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, we are all born analysts whether we know it or not. We evolved in a world of complex information and critical choices. We recognize patterns, spot outliers and sort and categorize naturally to make sense out of information. It only makes sense that we rely on these innate skills to help us thrive in business.

The issue becomes that it can be difficult to justify and back up these innate analytics. It is necessary to have evidence to ensure they are indeed correct.

Explanations take such a dreadful time. – The Gryphon

When instinct is telling you one thing, but you can’t explain and back it up with solid evidence, it creates confusion, indecision and slows organizations down.

Smart businesses have turned to data to enhance these innate skills. It is through data they can make evidence-based decisions. And while data is obviously the first step to building on business intelligence, it creates its own problems.

We’re all a little mad here. – The Cheshire Cat

The concept of data itself is slowly driving many organizations crazy. They spend a lot of time, energy and money collecting it, compiling it in various systems and producing static reports or spreadsheets and then they still can’t make any sense of it. It’s scattered and confusing and ends up being an even bigger distraction.

A proper business intelligence approach consists of more than just data. There are two other critical components to consider. The first being a plan and direction.

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. "Which road do I take?" she asked. "Where do you want to go?" was his response. "I don’t know," Alice answered. "Then," said the cat, "it doesn’t matter."

Too much data and too little direction can make you feel like you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. The first step when it comes to building a plan around your data is to know what direction you want to go. You need to know the objectives you want to achieve and your organizational goals to ensure your data plans are aligned and you are collecting only what you need.

It is no use collecting data with no plan in mind, you will just end up staring at numbers and reports that do little to help you and leave you more frustrated because your natural analytical skills will want to make sense of them, but without the structure of a plan it will not be able to.

It would be so nice if something made sense for a change. – Alice

The second piece of the data puzzle is using the right technology that allows users to enhance the innate analytical skills they already have to make decisions using the data that directly applies to the business goals.

Systems that give users the ability to access the data themselves easily, known as self-serve BI tools, and go where their inclination guides them to gain insight rather than using predefined linear paths like traditional tools, are good options.

With a system like QlikView and its Natural Analytics, you discover associations – how your data is linked and connected – or not. And you make these associations without anyone modeling them for you first.

You can compare data, find patterns, and explore them further. And you categorize information naturally, in a way that makes sense to you.

You anticipate discoveries by following visual cues and nudges, allowing your data to intuitively guide you to answers you seek. And, you predict future outcomes based on insights you discover.

It allows you to tell a story. You can let people know what you’ve found, why they need to know, and what to do about it. It is dialogue and collaboration the way nature intended.

A system that lets people do what comes naturally will also lead to higher adoption rates, which means greater returns on investment which leads to greater returns on the information and that leads you to your end goal of better decisions.

And perhaps with the right plan, the right data and the right technology, you can answer the question that has been plaguing Alice in Wonderland fans for years:

Why is a raven like a writing desk?