You know that there’s valuable data within your business applications that could help you make better business decisions and achieve improved business results. However, you might not be using it in a way that leads to those outcomes.
How do you derive the maximum benefit from data? Ask questions that will solve business problems, then identify how your existing data can provide those answers.
What's Your Goal?
The first step to unlocking the value of your data stored within business applications is to have a clear goal in mind. What are you hoping to gain from analyzing this data - do you want to boost sales? Are you hoping to improve your marketing ROI, or would you like to streamline operations?
Goals for a data project are akin to having a road map before you set off on a trip. By knowing where you're going, you won't waste gas, and you'll arrive at your destination faster. While the scenic route is pretty, you might just end up in the middle of nowhere.
What Kinds of Questions Should You Be Asking?After you've set your goals, you must decide what questions you're going to be asking of your data. Just looking at information isn't going to help you make better decisions. You need to ask the right questions of your data to make smart choices and improve business results.
But, what sorts of questions will guide your company in the right direction so it’s more efficient and profitable? A first step to determining what direction your business should go in is to determine key performance indicators. KPIs will vary from organization to organization as well as from department to department. That’s why it’s vital to keep KPIs small in scope and to track them constantly and consistently so that they provide an accurate measurement of performance.
“The most important question you should ask is the one companies overlook the most: how can employees use this data to solve problems and get better results?”
Once you’ve determined KPIs, you’ll find yourself on a progression of asking increasingly more advanced questions. This is known as the analytics maturity spectrum. The questions on the farthest (or earliest) part of the spectrum are descriptive (“What happened here?”). Then, they move into diagnostic (“Why did they happen?”), and from there, they shift into predictive mode (“What’s going to happen next?”). The other end of the spectrum, the most mature end, asks prescriptive questions (“What can we do to make things better?”).
It’s important to inventory your different sources of data to figure out which will help you answer the relevant questions. There are a number of data sources across the company that are repositories of valuable information – they exist in the finance, marketing, sales, human resources, and operations departments.
The most important question you should ask is often the one companies overlook the most: how can employees use this data to solve problems and get better results? Giving employees access to the data through a platform that allows them to pull data from different sources enables them to run their own queries that may lead to creative responses to problems. Executives should also have the ability to generate and view scorecards that let them make mission-critical decisions.
Case Study: Community Transit
Community Transit is a public transportation provider based in Snohomish County just north of Seattle. It operates park-and-ride lots in Seattle and the surrounding areas. Community Transit’s leadership team wanted to know how well those lots are being utilized to ensure the maximum benefit to the public.
Decisive Data’s Tableau Data Visualization team created a dashboard that focuses on the metric of lot utilization. By hovering over the map of parking lots, users can learn more about the rate of lot utilization and filter by usage trends. Tooltips provide even more granular detail for users.
“Thanks to the dashboard, Community Transit has been able to make decisions about how best to manage the parking lots it operates.”
Thanks to the dashboard, Community Transit has been able to make decisions about which lots require more active management (such as monitoring parking violations and maintaining payment machines), which lots need to be expanded because they can’t serve enough customers, and which lots aren’t being used enough and should be closed.
When you ask the right questions of your data, you can make the right decisions and improve your business outcomes. Decisive Data can help. To learn more, contact us.
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