Driving Miss DataWritten by Lance Hemenway
November 7, 2012 # 10:15 am # Expert Guides, Specials # 4 Comments
Data collection and analysis permeates your life every day. From plugging your daily food intake into your fitness app, to the number of Facebook friends you have, to the choices you make about where eat, on some level data spurs your decision making. Hopefully, it plays an even larger role when you sit down to chart the future of your sales and marketing campaign. Not only does your data serve as a road map, it should be in the driver’s seat. But if you aren’t mindful of your collection and analysis methods, your data could take you in the wrong direction. Avoid these common mistakes to make sure your data keeps you on the right side of the road and on the path the greener pastures.
Wearing Big-Picture Blinders. There’s no doubt that you have data pouring in from all sides. If you’re not an expert in data analysis, this can be pretty overwhelming. It might be tempting to pinpoint a few metrics for analysis. Resist that urge. Instead, take an integrated approach and consider the impact of all metrics to your bottom line. Think about how each metric interacts with the others. If you keep a narrow focus, there’s a good chance you will misinterpret your data, which could send you in the wrong direction.
Failure to Keep An Open Mind. It’s normal to have preconceived notions about what you will find when you begin to explore your data. The danger is in trying to force the data to support these notions. If you have to work hard to make your numbers jive with your thinking, you need to take a step back and expand your thinking. You should be able to get the same results using different analysis tools. If one method gives you a different result, don’t discount it. Study it closer. A different result is telling you something. Yes, it’s frustrating when the data doesn’t line up. But it can also be exciting because unexpected results can drive us in a new direction full of untapped markets that we might not have considered otherwise.
Ignoring Your Gut. John Naisbitt, a well-known global trends expert, said, “Intuition becomes increasingly valuable in the new information society precisely because there is so much data.” In other words, even if you have the world’s best data analysis tools, you still need to ask yourself if the results make sense. You know your business better than anyone, and you know if something feels “off.” Listen to your gut. Dig deeper if you think something isn’t quite right. You may be wrong, but you may be right.
Data analytics can be tough stuff, and fortunately, there are numerous tools designed to help you quickly and accurately make sense of the wealth of data you collect. But you have to be an active participant in the process. If you become a backseat driver, you might find your data driving you down a dark path.