Data. Your business has it, needs it, and needs to be able to use it. The problem is that data—particularly complex data—is incomprehensible to the average person. Yet the many average people at your organization want timely information to help them make better decisions.
Data is Not the Same as Information
Data is what you get from running queries across your systems and databases. This data is raw. It’s rows and columns of numbers and stats. Raw data can be a source of information, but it’s not inherently information. There are some hoops it needs to jump through first.
Information is what the average people at your organization—everyone from accounting to sales to the C-suite—count on to make decisions. It tells them the story of the business: what’s working, what isn’t working, and trends across time.
However, there’s a problem. Data is growing and business intelligence is changing. As data grows, it’s increasingly important to find effective ways to turn data into information. Data continues to double every three years, per a McKinsey report. On top of that, executives are increasingly focused on getting effective information (based on accurate data) in order to compete.
As a result, all signs point to the need for organizations to focus on gathering information from data. If you don’t get a handle on it now, you’re setting your business up for trouble down the line.
To Turn Data into Information…
To set your business up for success, turning data into information is important. This will help you get value out of your data. It doesn’t need to be a complicated process, either. There are just four things you need to be able to get information out of your data.
1. Do You Have the Right Data?
You need the right data at the right time—and it needs to be accurate. This may seem simple, but this is where many organizations get stuck.
Here are some common hang-ups organizations encounter:
- Your slow-moving query tool takes so long to get the data that it becomes outdated
- Only your programmers can access IBM i data
- It’s not easy to put the data in a business-friendly format (Microsoft Excel, the web, etc.)
This all adds up to your IT department struggling to efficiently deliver the right data at the right time. With the right query tool, you can bypass those problems and rely on your data. Once you have that covered, you have the foundation for turning data into information. You’re ready to take next step.
2. What Makes Data Meaningful?
Don’t compile data just for the sake of having data. Compile data because it’s meaningful—to you, to the people who requested it, and to your business.
Consider the following. When a request comes in, define the requestor’s needs. Sales needs the latest customer data to understand purchasing trends—and who might benefit from a new product. Accounting needs customer data for billing. Executives want customer data to see which market segments drive growth. It will only confuse the stakeholders involved if you make all data available to everyone. Make sure the data you pull and present is the right data for that group.
Making data meaningful is a key step toward turning your data into information. Next, take the data to the next level.
3. Where’s the Context?
A snapshot of a point in time doesn’t tell your business anything useful. You need to be able to understand where the data point exists in a trend. That’s where context comes in.
Context turns data into information. While data can only give you a snapshot, context gives you the big picture. If there was $5,000,000 of revenue last month, what does that really mean? How much was revenue in the previous month—or the same month the previous year?
To add context, provide your organization with more than just a snapshot—give them the full picture. You’ll add a whole new layer to your data, helping it along its journey to becoming information.
4. Can You Visualize the Data?
It can be difficult to understand what data means if you’re just staring at row after row of numbers. At least, that’s the way it is for the average person at your organization.
Data visualization—the presentation of data in a graphical format—is crucial to turning data into easily digestible information. There are several ways you can visualize data. Graphs and charts display comparisons across time and help you manage your business. Gauges measure how well your business is doing on meeting a particular goal.
If you need to quickly and easily visualize data, business intelligence dashboards are a great way to go. Most dashboards show graphs, charts, and gauges. When you ground data in context and display it on a dashboard, it’s simple for anyone to spot trends and then make good decisions about it.
Your Business Information, Powered by Data
Turning data into information doesn’t need to be difficult. Start with the right data. Add meaning. Ground the data in context. Then visualize the data—so anyone can understand it.