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3 Steps to Actually Doing Something with Your Data

Director of Technology at HNI

So you’ve got systems capturing data on your business. Maybe you’re monitoring number and speed of widgets produced, tracking hits to your website, or measuring idle time in your trucks.  The information is at your fingertips – so now what?

Data_ManagementWhen I was a young aspiring 4 year old artist, I determined that what I needed to do to create great art was to have all the right materials. I gathered all the crayons, paper and markers I could find and set out to create a picture of my house.  Once my implements were in place, I quickly set to work.

To my disappointment, my creation did not meet my internal expectations. Having the right tools and the ambition did not produce the high quality Image I was expecting.  Without templates, instruction or guidance, it was just scribbles on paper.  And although my mother said it was lovely, I knew the output was not recognizable as a house.

How do my meager artistic abilities relate to business data?  We see a similar scenario play out all the time.  Most companies have made huge investments in systems that track everything – in other words, they have the markers and crayons -- but when it comes to drawing the picture, all that data comes up short.

Bringing Your Data to Life

So how do you take the data you’re capturing and unveil the “Starry Night’ that’s waiting to be revealed? There is no silver bullet, but doing a few simple actions can help direct your action when dealing with data.

1. Verify accuracy

It is shocking how few companies actually verify the data they are gathering is correct.  Before doing anything else, start with a reality check.  Do the numbers make sense? 

Data entry errors and omissions are often easy to spot and correct… if you are looking for them.

2. Think through the questions you want to answer

Develop a list of questions you want to answer.  This will sharpen your focus and help in deciding which data you need to be collecting and interpreting. To find an answer, you need to ask a question.  Think through:

  • What key factors and trends drive your business?
  • What don’t you know? 
  • What do you think you know about your business?  Prove it with the data.

3. Visualize to spot trends

“Seeing is believing” is an old adage that couldn’t be more true when it comes to analytics and business intelligence.  Spreadsheets full of data tell a story… to a computer.  For most humans, finding ways to visualize data is key to unveiling trends that we otherwise wouldn’t see. 

There are lots of great tools that extract and convert data.  It might be an investment, but one that will yield results.

With data smarts and a little elbow grease, you’ll soon see “picture” inside your data that is worth displaying.


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