The Power of Data Analytics in Decision Making
The following is an edited extract from Be Data Analytical.
If one does not understand the purpose and objective of data and analytics, it is quite possible to go astray in data and analytical work. So, what is the purpose of data and analytics? Is it to build pretty data visualizations, buy the latest tool and technology, or have a strong data governance structure?
All of these things can be good things when done in the proper vein and strategy, but no, none of these are the purpose of data and analytics. The purpose of data and analytics is to empower us and help us in making decisions. That’s it.
Over the years, the purpose of data and analytics is either lost on people, has been forgotten, or in many cases is unknown. The world of data and analytics is full of hype and buzz words.
AI, big data, data literacy, all of them are important, but they need to be utilized properly and within a holistic data strategy. Each one of these can be a part of the process of making better decisions, but organizations and individuals just need to know strategically how to do it correctly.
The data is the starting point. We need good, clean, quality data. We need something to transform that data into insight. In comes analytics. From analytics, we can use a data-driven decision-making framework to arrive at a decision. Underpinning it all, we have the world of data storytelling to help communicate out the data, the insight and the decision.
This is a nice, smooth way to look at the process from start to finish. Let’s look at each one of these in more detail.
Data is just data. It has potential power resting within it. The backend of data and analytics is very, very important. Without good data, how are we going to make good decisions?
Within the data side of things, we have the sources of data, data warehouses, data lakes, data engineers, technology and whatever other areas are along the backend of data. Now, there is so much data in the world today and that is going to increase, but let me ask, is it the amount of data or the right data that matters?
That may seem like an obvious answer because, of course, it is the right data that matters. But, the reality is, one can get caught up in the enormity of data or the inexpensive cost to store data and forget that what really matters is how the data is helping us to meet our goals and objectives more effectively. That is the key. That is essential in an overall data-driven decision-making process. As you look to harness the power of data effectively, keep your compass focused on the goal of using the data to help you and/or your organization to reach your individual or organizational goals.
Let’s now focus on how to bring the data to life to realize its potential.
What is the purpose of analytics in decision making? Let’s think about something with the potential harnessed and ready to go, something with power within it that needs something to ignite that power.
To use it as a story, let me speak of one of my favourite roller coasters. This roller coaster is one that starts flat on the ground. The magnets ignite and the coaster is propelled forward through the ride, now going up and down and around, even taking you upside down in a loop. As you wait in line or in the coaster car as it is taken to its starting point, and once at the starting point, you still have to wait; there is potential building up. You have anticipation of what’s ahead, maybe some nerves or fears. Once those magnets turn on, that car is pulled forward quickly and you are off. Let’s look at those magnets as the four levels of analytics.
Data is powerful. Using the right data, knowing your organizational business objectives and goals, and then utilizing and empowering that data to flow through to a decision can be amazing. Are there bumps in the road? Yes, of course, let’s just hope no big bumps on a coaster. But, data is the anticipation, data is sitting there and it needs the magnets to bring it to life! In steps analytics, it lights the fire and gets the whole thing flowing.
Framework, decision, data storytelling
Organizations need frameworks or at least need to know how to take data to create insight into a decision. Organizations can utilize frameworks to make this happen. I encourage organizations or individuals to study decision-making frameworks, empowering themselves to know what to do and how to do it. We can’t just build visualizations, find insight and be stuck, not knowing how to make a decision. We need to make those decisions, or what are we doing this data work for?
Once you have a decision, you need to communicate it or, if you are hoping to persuade others to make a decision, you need to have good storytelling capabilities. The field of data storytelling is large and has become bigger and more important. We need people who can communicate well the insights they have found; we need people who can persuade and objectively show what needs to be done.
Overall, data storytelling is a powerful way to get your message across, for all levels of analytics and in your decision-making process and communication. Utilize data storytelling to share your descriptive analytics, the diagnostic analytics, the why and to share your predictions and what the machines told you. Use data storytelling to persuade your audience, to help them see the full picture, and to help you and everyone else to make a decision.