Simple Truths about Big Data to Live By


Big data has changed the world of commercial strategy as we know it. Remaining competitive today, for most companies, revolves around one thing: the ability to harness the right data and put it to work throughout your organization to uncover and inspire actionable, data-supported insights and strategies. But for many companies, the feeling of falling short when it comes to big data is all too familiar. All-things-data do indeed move at breakneck speeds, which means it’s easy to feel like you’re continually behind the curve. To help, we’re sharing a few simple truths about big data and data analytics best practices that you and your team can live by, even in times of change. 

Simple Truths about Big Data

It’s all about a well-defined business problem

Good data analytics stems from a good understanding of your business, and the problems and opportunities you face. Accurate problem definition is a prerequisite for extracting value from data analytics because even the most poignant data insights can fall flat without practical applications that solve a specific challenge. Ensure that data-related projects are rooted in a clearly defined problem, one that also has consensus and support from your team, so that the process of turning insights into action is as seamless as possible.

Change the way you think about data

There’s a good chance that for most non-tech people on your team, the default is for them to think of data as information about past action, which tells you about what happened in your organization, and perhaps, why. Instead, encourage your team to think of ways data could help answer questions like “what might happen?” and “what should we do next?” This shift in thinking might encourage domain-specific team members to think of new data points to begin collecting, or new data queries to initiate. This can also help make data and data-driven thinking an integral part of strategic decision-making for the firm as a whole.

Don’t forget about external data, and data partners

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the sheer volume of data available to businesses today can be mind boggling and, in many cases, internal data alone (that is, data produced by your company’s own business activity) can be hard to handle. But there is a good chance that there is external data that is just as useful to your business, if not more so. When exploring external data options, consider looking for an external data partner, such an industry counterpart with whom you might have overlapping data interests. When done right, these partnerships can lighten the individual load of handling big data and improve the ROI on data-related projects.

Invest in data visualization tools early

“Good insights get lost in poor visualizations.” This quote from Analytics Training pretty much sums it up.  No matter how good your data practices are, or how insightful your analysis is, chances are they will fail to make an impact without good data visualization mechanisms in place. Data visualization is, in many ways, the bridge between your data’s complexity and your team’s ability to comprehend and derive value from it. Its technical definition is as follows: the presentation of data in pictorial or graphical format. But, beyond its role as a visual tool, Data Visualization enables decision-makers to understand what the data is telling them so they can grasp difficult concepts and identify new patterns.

Conclusion: Know that there is no silver bullet, but don’t do nothing

This is perhaps one of our favorite pieces of advice when it comes to initiating data analytics best practices. We all know the massive importance that data now plays in short and long term commercial strategy and, indeed, survival. But, hearing this all the time doesn’t necessarily get anyone any closer to knowing the exact right approach to take. The truth is, there is no such thing – no one right way, no silver bullet when it comes to effectively and efficiently using data to improve business outcomes. But, rather than give in to overwhelm and inertia, take small steps: ask small (and big) questions, make small (and big) investments, and do this until the path starts to become clearer, little by little.

If your team is struggling to keep up with growing data demands, or if you feel like you could be putting your data to work for you in a more effective manner, contact us today to see how our HFX Analytics team could help.