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data gap

Conquering The Decision Gap

I find myself worrying a lot about the volumes of data we have at our disposal and worse, the sizes of data we give our clients access to. More so, what those implications are for their business and our goals as analysts and marketers. Perhaps if you are a lover of data influenced decision making, then it would worry you too. As analysts, a large portion of our day goes into collecting the requirements, implementations of data codes, sorting of big data and segmenting the useful from the useless. An additional massive investment is made in the effort to perform a ninja-like analysis to help interpret that data. The result is a collection of trends, insights and recommendations. 

What is the decision gap? 

The decision-gap is that inevitable space between the qualitative and quantitative, whereby the action gets lost. And it is ultimately this gap that stands between your trends and getting an influential company leader to take action. What’s the secret to ensuring your insights are not lost in translation? It’s how simply you can convey your point in as little data, visualisation and text as possible.   

It could be on a PowerPoint slide, an excel sheet, a dashboard or only something you plan to sketch on a whiteboard. The context in which you display this presentation of the data will decide if your trends and insights are understood, accepted and inferences drawn as to what action should be taken next.  

If your data presentation is right, you reduce the risk of having your recommendations lost into the abyss. If your data presentation is complex and numbers dense, all the hard work that went into collecting that data set and analysing it, will all be for nought.   

With the benefits so obvious, you might imagine that the data gap is not a widely prevalent issue. I’m afraid that is not true. I see reports, dashboards and presentations with wide gaps, sometimes even my own. It breaks my heart because I can truly appreciate all that hard work that went into creating work that resulted in no data-influence. We have become so focused on attributional leads, secondary leads and fluff metrics that it becomes harder for the end-user to navigate through the clutter to make a decision. But it goes beyond just that of visualisation, it comes down to core objectives and contextualising the numbers into something more tangible and actionable.   

So much data, so little time! 

Now that we have all this data at our fingertips, it is essential to remember that while we can track just about everything, it may not all be necessary to help you make a decision. Imagine walking into and out of a supermarket. If you did not purchase anything, then the supermarket managers probably don’t even know you were there. If you purchased something, the supermarket knows something was sold (they see a bit more if you use a loyalty card).  

Visiting a website, you leave behind a significant amount of data, whether you buy something or not. The website knows every “aisle” you walked down, everything you touched and everything you put in your cart and then discarded. If you buy, the site manager knows where you live, where you came to the website from, which promotion you are responding to, how many times you have bought before and so on. If you simply visited and left the site, it still knows everything you did, and in the exact order you did it in.  

Add to this the fact that now there is a massive proliferation of tools that will instantly create reports presenting data in every conceivable slice, graph, table, pivot or dump that you can imagine the challenge.  

But, no matter what tool you use, the best that all this data will help you understand is what happened. It cannot, no matter how much you torture the data, tell you why something happened. This is the reason qualitative data is so hypercritical. It is the difference between 99% of the website analysis that happens that yields minimal insights and the 1% that provides a window into the mind of a customer.  

It’s that “why” that most clients are after as they believe it would help them make more informed decisions and you can only do this by narrowing down your data points to a hand full of key metrics.   

Quality over quantity 

Most of us are drowning in data and unsure of how to hear the screaming customer. But perhaps the most effective way of approaching data is in the understanding that the volume of data does not depict the quality of the decision or even the urgency of the decision that needs to be made.   

Ask yourself, by using the data you have available, can you drive actionable changes within your business for its improvement? If not, it’s time to cut back on the fat and focus on the lean muscle that presses your business forward.   


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