The Data Sandstorm

One client is in the midst of the back to school season and the data is flowing in like water over the Niagara Falls.

English: A massive dust storm cloud () is clos...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is so much coming out of web activity, social activity, email activity – where does one begin? It got me thinking about how it is like driving around in the fog or a sandstorm. The data get more dense and navigation becomes impossible.

One thing some people do to clean off the windshield is to wipe away the data.  They regularly make decisions based on gut feel or something they read that may have worked foe someone else.  Why let facts get in the way of a good story, after all?  I am not a fan of using data as a crutch nor as a shield.  It should be used to guide decision making but not as a replacement for your own vision. However, if you don’t measure the impact of whatever decisions you’re making and confronting the results of those decisions, the business is managing you and not vice-versa.

Data needs to support decisions.  When someone says we’re going to do X ask them what data they used in deciding to take that course of action.  The less data-driven the decisions was (and that’s OK), the more rapidly the action needs to be measured and the result quantified (although some of the results may be qualitative instead of quantitative).  I’ve found that just asking the questions can have a beneficial effect.

Yes, it’s inconvenient when the numbers don’t back up the course of action you (or your boss!) have in mind.  It may be inconvenient but it shouldn’t be ignored.  It may be hard to navigate in the sandstorm of data that overwhelms us but no one said business was easy.  Thoughts?

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