Painting with Data

To a data analyst, even strolling through an art exhibit can quickly turn into The Matrix.  An ordinary outdoor café can be a catalyst for spreadsheet enthusiasts pondering an infinite number of data-related questions. How many patrons can sit at one time? What is the average time for a table to turn over? What is the price range of an entrée? What are the busiest months for the café? On and on and on… But the real question is (out of all the amazing questions) which data provides us with the most meaning?

Determining which data creates meaning is twofold. The most important aspect of meaningful data is the perspective of the stakeholders. By analyzing data, how does this improve operations for the stakeholder, café owner, or any other interested party?

Secondly, data analysts must harness the V’s of big data (volume, velocity, and variety) to create reliable and valid environments where trusted data can be analyzed. Only then can analysts pass on information to their clients so that clients can draw actionable conclusions. Without these two aspects, data are only numbers, void of meaning. If cultivated properly, however, these numbers hold tremendous power and potential.

When working with clients, it is essential to understand the canvas on which their picture is painted. The canvas creates the foundation for all data building blocks.  Without a solid foundation, analysts and clients cannot move forward. Too often, we have seen companies invest time and money piling data on top of shaky foundations, only to find the results of their analysis lack validity and reliability. Therefore, when painting your picture with data, it is imperative you begin with a clean canvas.

With these measures in place, one can begin the journey to learn from the past, evaluate the present, set goals, and paint a plan for the future.