Possessing data is a far cry from capitalizing on it. That is, having data does not automatically position an enterprise to improve its business outcomes as a result. Truly transforming data into opportunity requires the right tools and culture to support data-based decision-making.
Analytics Tools: From Information to Actionable Insights
Every company has a veritable sea of data points collected over the years covering every imaginable aspect of performance. There’s lots of opportunity here to capitalize on this data — but without the right tools to do so, this data will remain in a format inaccessible to the employees in positions to make decisions. This would be akin to investing the time and materials needed to collect barrels of sap from trees but failing to take the steps to turn it into the desired product of maple syrup.
What we want from data isn’t a vast collection of data points; it’s actionable insights people can use to inform real decisions. The business analytics tools a company uses dictate how accessible, transparent and interactive these insights are when they reach users.
Business analytic software can take structured and unstructured data from many sources and bring it together into a unified platform. The result? Users are able to derive clear insights that are understandable and directly relevant to their decision-making needs. Enterprises today are moving toward increasingly democratized data tools, meaning they empower business users to work with data directly rather than requiring data teams to mediate reporting based on stored data.
According to one expert for Forbes, here are some key characteristics of these actionable insights produced by data analytics technology:
- Aligned with business goals and strategy
- Contains enough context to fully inform users
- Relevant to decision-makers viewing and interacting with the insight
- Specific enough to drive immediate action
- Straightforward in both its formatting and implications
The goal is to connect decision-makers with the data insights capable of fueling their decisions. Another attribute of successful analytics tools here is interactivity, as it allows these end users to keep exploring insights to fully understand them rather than having to fall back on static charts.
Turning Data Insights into Business Outcomes
Even if an organization has deployed advanced business analytics tools capable of delivering insights to the right people when it counts, there’s still some distance to cover before reaching “the finish line” — otherwise known as achieving a measurable business outcome.
Creating a culture in which data is openly discussed at every level and tied back to concrete decisions is an important piece of the puzzle. Employees will undoubtedly look to leaders to see how they talk about data and the degree to which their decisions are driven by data, so make sure your organization is perpetuating this approach from the top down.
Another step toward turning data into business opportunities is building users’ confidence around working with data visualizations — particularly when it comes to analyzing insights and incorporating them into actual decisions. Raising employees’ data literacy levels can help users feel more empowered to use the analytics tools at their disposal, recognize potentially relevant patterns lurking within data and maximize their chances of interpreting data insights well — context and all — helping them avoid making decisions from faulty premises.
Although the top analytics tools are designed for self-service among the user base, organizations still may benefit from offering role-specific training to help everyone get the most from these tools, and in turn apply their findings in a way that’s beneficial to the bottom line.
Analytics tools and culture go hand in hand to determine how well a business will be able to convert data into actionable insights — the fuel for desirable business outcomes based on data.