From business demand to data demand in 5 steps

These days, you can use data to reveal valuable information and new undiscovered insights to a business. Often, it is an endeavour of beautiful theory mixed with experimental tinkering. If you succeed, then you are one step ahead of the competition. But, if it doesn’t work out, it becomes very difficult to take the next innovative steps. Using these five steps we reveal some insight into the process and offer several important tips on how to turn a business question into a data question.

Step 1: Get the right question from the business.

Step 2: Turning the business question into a data question.

An IT professional is not a business expert and vice versa. In many situations, a business expert is not familiar with working with data and thus finds it difficult to ask the right questions. IT people, on the other hand, often have little insight into the needs of the business and what data the business needs. There is a gap between these two fields, and to make data-driven decision-making a success, it must be closed. That is why steps 1 and 2 are inextricably linked with each other.

Some simple tips to tackle this challenge:

  • Teach business people the basics of how data works and what its (un)possibilities are.
  • Teach IT people which data is especially important for answering business questions and how best to present that data in visual form (dashboarding).

And practical:

  • Place the data team in the middle, as it were, with the closest around them being the teams that make the most use of data. They are the ones that need to use the data the most and incorporate it into their work daily. Teams that are not reliant on certain data should have fewer privileges and access to it so that the data is also more secure.

This endeavour requires both a bit of cultural change as well as a transfer of knowledge.

Step 3: Choose data sources

And step 4: Linking data sources

In today’s work environment, data is everywhere. However, not all data is useful when trying to look at a specific business question. Let’s say, for example, you would like to know why a particular product has been sold more or less during a certain period of time, you need a limited number of data sources whose quality must be in good order. In other words, your data must be reliable but also contain the right data or metadata. Also bear in mind, most valuable insights come from linking different sources together.

For instance, it’s easy using data to check that trains were on time 80 percent of days in January rather than the usual 90 per cent. That’s the so-called positional data. But by incorporating event dates into the equation you can begin to answer the ‘why’ of the matter. In the mentioned case, weather data revealed that the switches were frozen for several days, which made it difficult for the trains to run as usual.

The needs of the business must be leading factors in the data sources chosen, tracked, and linked. The focus of the data team should largely be in tune with those needs.

Step 5: Turn the data response into a business answer

As mentioned earlier, business people are not data analysts. And data often offers room for interpretation. Partly, of course, that is also the job of the business manager and the manager. It is up to him or her to determine which data is important, which trends need to be focused on, and which investments need to be made.

Knowing this, it should be no surprise that how data is presented and, above all, selected, is of utmost importance. If you want to do this successfully as a data team, it must be presented as if to a child. Preferably, data should be seen on a dashboard with clear graphs and a limited amount of distracting figures. They must continuously answer predetermined business questions.

This brings us back to the start. When working with and applying data, mutual cooperation is crucial. The weakest link of technology is often the one using it. If you do it wrong, you’ll waste a lot of money, time and effort. But if you do it right, it offers enormous added value.

Do you want to know more about how to optimally use data in your company, or do you need temporary expertise to give your data team or business team a spin in the right direction? If so, please contact one of our experts. You can also continue to read our data checklist for more insight and even more useful tips.

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