In the same way that many people approach science with preconceived ideas and then look for “facts” to support their hypotheses, some people in business (and businesses as a whole) use data to try to support decisions they have already made. This approach is as flawed and dangerous as approaching science with preconceived ideas, rather than letting the evidence shape knowledge.

In the data context, it is far better to properly examine data and gain insights with an open mind, and then allow what is learned to drive action, than to use it to support decisions made without reference to relevant data and key insights.

Gaining valuable, actionable insights from your data starts with working out exactly what you want to gain from a data analysis exercise – i.e. where the true value lies.

Use the questions below to help frame the mental process of working out where the real value lies in your data analysis, and very importantly, how to turn the insights gained into action:

  • What are the desired outcomes? Clarify and be specific.
  • Who will participate and play a role, and who will benefit from the results of the data project?
  • When must the project be completed? Clearly establish the deadlines and time-bound goals. This may help to ensure the project gets the priority it needs.
  • What are the potential benefits? What problem will proper analysis of data solve? How will taking action based on the insights gained affect or change the organization for the better? What will the business be able to achieve that was impossible before?
  • Can you think of ways to visualize the end result? What will meeting a need or solving a problem with data analysis and insights look like? Is it possible to simulate or express the final outcome in a visual way, to encourage support and adoption from relevant role players at all levels in the organization?
  • Can outcomes be clearly measured? What reports and tools can be used to clearly show the success of the project, and the difference it has made in the organization? How will insights gained be used and integrated into business decisions and processes?
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