Data only useful when can be properly understood, can be confusing to untrained eye
Users need tools to help them analyse and interpret data, visualise patterns and trends
BUSINESSES today tap on business intelligence and data analytics to gain insights into their operations, better understand their customers, and project market trends.
With the information, business executives can make informed decisions and adopt strategies to best take advantage of market situations.
However, data is only useful when it can be properly understood. Inundating a sales team with a myriad of statistics or spreadsheets with rows and rows of data will not be productive.
Also, data in its raw form can be confusing for the untrained eye.
Instead, business users need tools that can empower them to analyse and interpret data, visualise patterns and trends, and basically gain insights and information would be useful to their work.
Here’s how businesses can leverage simple-to-understand data analytics and visualisation to get better results.
1) One platform to rule them all
In the ideal world, all the data that a sales and marketing team needs will be sitting in one place. However, data can be stored in databases, warehouses, Hadoop, the cloud, on your desktop, and many other places in the real world.
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Business users need the ability to analyse data wherever their data lives. The best way to managed this is to use a platform that is able to accept and interpret multiple sources of data.
Doing so allows users to not only save time, but also to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their data analysis.
Take TNP2K, a poverty alleviation team set up by the Indonesian Government, for example. Being the coordinator for multiple government agencies and departments, TNP2K regularly analyses data from different sources and in different formats.
It uses an analytics tool that has native connectors to common databases like Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Teradata, Oracle, EMC Greenplum, HP Vertica, etc.
The native connectors help to optimise and increase performance, leverage the capabilities of each data source, and honour as well as enforce security protocols within.
This has allowed TNP2K to easily and quickly gain insights into the many terabytes of data that they work with and generate useful visualisations for its audience.
2) Keep it simple and visualise
Analytics concept horizontal
When utilising data analytics, it is always a good idea to keep the process as user-friendly and simple as possible.
By doing so, businesses can empower everyone in the organization – business managers or knowledge workers – to make day-to-day decisions based on information garnered from analysis.
Keeping it simple also helps to encourage the adoption of the tool, as an easy to adopt and learn software will be seen a help rather than a hindrance.
Additionally, the tool should help users ‘see’ and understand, or in other words, simplify their data.
Humans interpret visuals about 60,000 times faster than text. As such, the ability to visually see data in charts or diagrams instead of having to scan through multiple lines of numbers to find that correlation not only saves time, but can also allow users to discover answers that would otherwise be hidden.
Visual analytics allow users to access and view data in different ways. Ideally, visual analytics tools need to allow users to interact with their data – stimulating their thought processes – allowing them to ask different questions, as well as, find their own answers.
3) Focus on events that matter
A good analytics tool paired with the right set of data can help businesses see the telltale signs of when a trend is beginning to take place in the market. Armed with these insights, businesses can proactively take advantage of market trends.
For instance, UK retailer Tesco combined weather information and customer buying behaviour to predict that customers would choose to have barbecues on hot weekends. It then worked to ensure that barbecue food products and equipment is well stocked in their stores during summer or warm spring days.
This helped Tesco to capitalise on the situation and further enhance its customer loyalty, as shoppers eventually realise that the products they need are always in stock.
Other ways that businesses can focus on events is to analyse historical data. Data such as customer purchase history, customer loyalty surveys, and even information that may be freely available on the Internet like geographical or population statistics and demographics, can be tapped on for this purpose.
Answer age-old business questions
With the right rapid-fire data analytics tools, business users can explore data, find previously undiscovered patterns and trends, and make informed decisions quickly, in time to react to market changes.
Companies can now tap on data analytics to answer age-old business questions such as ‘Which is the best performing product or product category?’ or ‘Which business tactics are the most effective?’
By placing the power of data analytics into the hands of its employees, companies empower them to better understand their data and making decisions.
This ultimately results in employees having a positive impact on a company’s productivity and efficiency in business and their bottom-line.
JY Pook is Asia Pacific vice president at Tableau Software.
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