Going beyond “actionable insight”

If I had a nickel for every time I've read or heard the phrase "data analytics can provide you with actionable insight," I'd probably have enough money to buy a restaurant. 

Put the jargon to rest 
Poor eating habits aside, I've always challenged people to go deeper than "actionable insights," and ask them about the decisions certain companies make based on the intelligence that was provided to them. Take the following scenarios into consideration:

  • A manufacturer reconfigures its assembly process to reduce energy usage and production cycles. 
  • A retailer offers a new product line to satisfy consumer demand for a particular type of good.
  • A utility company connects to a hydroelectric dam.

All of these decisions were based on one thing: information. Thanks to research, historical data and trail-and-error, each of these fictional enterprises made changes (some greater than others) to their operations. Why are data visualization tools necessary? Because the technology has the ability to consider different factors simultaneously. 

"Can analytics provide the insights necessary to make monumental changes to an organization's foundations?"

Your customers are the key
For the sake of this blog, we'll keep the discussion industry-neutral. While the examples cited above describe scenarios in which changes affect certain facets of a business, can qualitative data analysis software provide the insights necessary to make monumental changes to an organization's operational foundations? 

Smart Data Collective's Rishi Shah mentioned the idea of using customer data to build relationships with technology vendors, ad agencies and any other partners a company may have. For example, a retailer may decide to hire a database administration (DBA) firm to secure its payment data, which ultimately improved the merchant's customer service. So, what kind of information did the customer service reports provide to the retailer's leaders that led them to hire the DBA vendor? 

Yet again, this example only describes one instance – right? Wrong. The choice to outsource DBA responsibilities is a reflection of two factors:

  1. The retailer deduced that it wasn't equipped with the resources or staff necessary to secure its databases.
  2. The merchant's customers did not have full confidence in the company's ability to protect their payment information. 

Once the partnership between the DBA and retailer was established, it created a ripple effect that permeated throughout the entire company – the IT department could allocate capital and personnel to other projects because its leadership knew the necessary cyberdefense protocols were being carried out. In addition, its marketing department could use the DBA partnership as a selling point and assure customers the retailer had a team of specialists working 24/7 to ensure all payment data is protected. 

Ultimately, that's the kind of impact data visualization can have on an organization. Intelligence provides professionals with the confidence to make educated decisions. Once those choices are executed, sweeping changes to operations may occur.