Data reporting hasn’t worked well for many companies because of the way it is approached. A business person without technical skills wants information to make a decision related to an app, a marketing campaign or a spending decision.
The information is stored in a database and they don’t have the skills to access it. They ask the developer for help. This means translating what they want to know into questions, which the developer must interpret and then code queries to the database. Eventually, a database report is produced – but the non-technical person is often presented with too much data, which they must then interpret based on their original need for information.
There is too much interpretation and translation going on. It quickly gets confusing, misunderstandings are inevitable and value is either obfuscated or missed altogether. Not to mention the frustration of waiting for something which might not meet requirements when it is finally delivered.
Good database reporting depends on two simple factors: numbers and context.
Numbers are easy to understand: How many website visitors, how many clicks on the marketing mailer, what are last year’s revenues and how do they compare with the previous reporting period? Numbers are pure and provide ready answers which are easily interpreted and which (the machinations of statisticians aside) don’t lie. They are straightforward and hard to misinterpret – from the perspective of the developer and the businessperson.
With the numbers in hand, getting further insight depends on context.
Context goes further by comparing the numbers with other numbers. Are website visitors up, or down? What is behind the change? What encouraged recipients to click through? And so on.
With good numbers in hand, many of the secondary questions flow intuitively.
The right tools for the job
The numbers are crucial and so too is context. But to create value from your data and drive action it is necessary to analyse it. Reporting with context aids analysis and improves understanding of data. Good reporting tools support the ability to extract meaningful numbers from the data and to contextualise. Good tools go further, too: they equip non-technical people with the ability to explore data and perform interactive analysis. You can reformulate questions as new answers emerge, and crucially, you can do this ‘on the fly’ at your own desk, without the necessity to find a developer to whom you must explain what you need.
What that means in practice is that the data which is stored ‘somewhere’, suddenly becomes accessible. The oil deposit under the Antarctic, for all the good that would do, is now a productive well in Texas. Your data is a productive asset, rather than a hidden possibility.
That’s the advantage of putting the right tools in place. It allows the people who need to ask questions of the data, to do so directly. No more lost in translation.
If you’re keen to find out more about putting data to use in your company, we’d be delighted to help. We’ll show you the tools, discuss the techniques and demonstrate what data could be doing. All at no charge. Check it out here.