Many IT directors understand the importance of using Big Data throughout their systems and providing methods to interpret data to all other departments and management teams. But, these same directors are often left struggling to find efficient and reproducible methods to interpret data for themselves and for their internal clients--from the bottom to the top.
In order to understand how to interpret data, IT leaders need to start with the methods and the systems they will use to get to the right data. This data directly ties to your company's business intelligence analysis and process, so the right interpretation means better planning and strategy execution.
While Big Data necessarily covers large amounts of information, interpreting that information does not need to cause headaches. With the right systems in place, even the least techy manager within your organization will be able to understand the data the IT systems provide. Let's look at five ways that simplify how to interpret data.
1. Automate Reporting
Information needs to be delivered in a manner that is easily understood without tying up the limited resources of an IT team. Rather than including reports in the work systems of your employees, take the time to ask everyone who needs information what they need. After discovering their needs, create a system which automatically filters, sorts, and displays that information in an understandable manner.
2. Understand Your KPIs
No matter how good your analytics software is, you will not be able to interpret data without knowing what your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are. A KPI gives you what types of questions you need to ask about your data in order to present it in an understandable manner. Every department and customer you serve will have their own performance goals and need to define those goals with you so that you're able to provide them the best results for the software and IT systems your department creates.
When you understand the KPIs your software needs to help fulfill, you will be able to find and ask key data related questions. These are questions like "What metrics does sales and marketing need to monitor their goals?", "What information does budgeting need from the warehouse to fulfill their goals?", and you get the picture. These questions are often cross-department and clarify the many relationships your IT systems will need to define within an organization.
3. Tailor Reporting for Key Questions
While automatic reporting is essential for managing your business intelligence, the right reporting defines the success of data management. The key questions you get from your internal and external customers for your data should define the reporting which you use. Use the questions to provide channels of reporting, to define which categories of information you collect from your IT systems, and to provide workflow processes for your information. Rather than giving everyone in your organization all the information available to you, tailor information management for each individual, department, and team.
4. Set Your Reporting Processes
Information is only useful if it is in the right place at the right time so that key decision makers can see it and take action. Understand what processes your internal and external customers use to receive and digest information and work your data management systems into that process.
Process management is worth more than a few posts in itself, but for this post, the key point to remember is that IT systems work independently from their customer's processes. Because of this age old split between UI/UX and design/architecture, information management should be addressed as two separate processes: one is internal to your IT teams (system's architecture) and the other is external to your processes (user experience). Work both so that the right information is processed through to the right people.
5. Use A Business Intelligence Dashboard
A key temptation for many IT teams is to always reinvent the wheel, especially when facing stringent purchasing budgets. Although it may be tempting to create data management systems entirely from the ground up, do you want to spend significant portions of the next few years building an efficient and accurate data management dashboard? If not, then you need to find a quality business intelligence dashboard (like those that are part SAP BusinessObjects or IBM Cognos) that gives you the tools necessary to quickly sort information according to your KPIs, set up automatic queries and algorithms, and run reports automatically.
These 5 steps provide the right direction so that any IT Director or Manager not only knows how to interpret data, but assures that they know the right data to interpret. Rather than focusing on what your data means, you should be building systems that create new streams of data which help improve product quality control, marketing ROI, customer retention and conversions, or a number of other useful metrics.
Learn more about how you can have superior data interpretation with the data analysis tools and dashboard software from IBM Cognos: Download our free white paper, Dashboard Reporting & Analysis for Midsize Companies.