Big Data has received no shortage of hype in the past few years, but successful implementations are relatively thin on the ground. This post will aim to provide you with a few tips to help you get started and ensure that you set off in the right direction, courtesy of a couple of guides on how to use data effectively.
Getting the Most Out of Analytics
The first comes from a recent paper published by British data science company Tessella. The paper provides five key tips to help you get the most out of analytics:
Focus on Your Business Outcomes
Successful analytics programs start by identifying what the business is trying to achieve and what decisions must be taken to reach those goals. Only then do they assess what data and technology are needed to inform those decisions.
Think Long-Term, but Focus on Quick Wins
Many data projects fail because they are too big and take too long to deliver value, leading senior teams to lose interest. Data projects must have a pragmatic execution plan, with milestones designed to demonstrate early success. The first data project plans should focus on multiple, smaller projects, run with agility, to deliver the fast actionable results and rapid-fire value that will win over senior teams.
Who, When, and How
Data success requires an understanding of who will use the data, when the information is needed, and how they engage with the insights being provided. By doing so, the resulting insights are presented in an appropriate manner for the decision maker. Project outputs need to be used by all sorts of people: it may be a data visualization for an expert in drug chemistry or oil well drilling, or it may be a mobile app that presents complex analytics of multiple health metrics as a simple text recommendation. Getting it wrong may mean missed opportunities, lost customers, and disillusioned staff.
Silos Out, Collaboration In
True business transformational data projects transcend traditional organisational boundaries. Companies need to adopt newly evolved structures, creating a culture where data scientists are in direct contact with the business functions, the IT departments, and the communities to which they are providing insights. Teams must be led by someone with a strong understanding of the both business context and technical challenges, these are the vital "translators" who can speak the language of the business and data scientist.
Take a Scientific Approach
Many analytics strategies fail because they put technology first; Invest into an analytics platform, a black box, which may rapidly identify trends in their data sets. However, these correlations may not be meaningful in a business context. To deliver the effective insights, the reasons for these correlations need to be fully understood.
It’s an approach that has more than a few parallels with the guiding principles of data analytics outlined in Monetizing Your Data by Andrew Wells and Kathy Chiang. They provide a number of guiding principles to help you go about your work with data in the right way.
- Quality data. Most of our efforts often go into cleaning up poor quality data, and without good-quality data, your efforts will inevitably fail.
- A specific goal. The more specific you can make your target, the more able you will be to find data to support that goal. Just doing Big Data is not enough; what is it you want to achieve?
- Holistic outlook. This doesn’t mean ignoring the big picture. Your project needs to fit into the goals of the wider organization.
- Have actions in mind. It’s easy to get carried away with technology and forget that the tech should support a clear and specific action.
- Provide options. Complex decisions are seldom cut and dried, so provide decision makers with a range of options, complete with probabilities attached.
- Trust your methods. It’s crucial to have faith in the quality of the data you work with, but also in the methods of working with it. Without both, the "consumer" can never really achieve great things with data.
- Know what it’s worth. Just as you should know what outcomes you want to achieve, you should also know how much those outcomes are worth to your organization.
- Measure your work. As with most things, you can’t judge the effectiveness of your work if you can’t measure it.
Becoming a data-driven organization is certainly a challenge that many of us must take on, but that few have mastered yet. Hopefully, some of these tips will help you on your journey.