The Problem

In recent articles on gleaning insights from big data, several authors (Christian Madsbjerg, Mikkel B. Rasumssen and Laura Patterson) make note of the fact that many CEOs believe that gaining customer insights is a crucial priority, far outranking other investments their businesses might make. This belief is largely driven by the challenges of an increasingly more complex business environment.

Many executives, stymied and frustrated by this new reality, have turned to customer research empowered by big data analytics. While often providing comprehensive, detailed information, the picture that emerges from big data can be incomplete, sometimes misleading. Purchasing behavior can be revealed in great detail but the whys, the insights into the drivers of the desired choices, are too often not provided.

Without business-relevant insights, guidance on actions to be taken is not possible…the business environment remains a complexity. Despite having access to big data, many executives believe that moving from data to business insights is still a major barrier to success.

Insight doesn’t magically spill out from high-end analytical tools.

The Pathway to Insights: 3 Essential Steps

1.  Organize the Data: “Know What You Want to Know”

Rather than looking for the proverbial “needle in a haystack”, the focus needs to be more selective. The focus should not be simply on more data but on business-relevant data. Relevance to your specific lines of business and objectives is a crucial factor for organizing data so that relevant insights can be gleaned. As noted by Bernard Marr from UK-based Advanced Performance, to get the most insight out of your data, “once you know what you want to know, collect and organize the data”.

2.  Bring the Data to Life: Data Visualization

Analysis and synthesis reveal patterns and relationships between the business-relevant variables. Data visualization aids in bringing these relationships to life and surfacing patterns that might not have been noticed in cold numbers.

3.  Articulate the Insights

With the visualized patterns at hand, the next step is to articulate the insights that are evident from each pattern and from sets of patterns. This often takes team discussion to capture the insights and potential activations that are relevant to your business and customers.

Capturing and articulating insights requires a thoughtful, structured process. And employing such a process will significantly improve the odds of generating relevant insight for your business over simply high-end analytics applied to big data.