/ How Stargazing Helps Us Improve Reports and Get More from Data

Technology has made incredible leaps in the last decade.

Think about it: only 10 years ago, everyone was a walking phonebook, capable of rattling off dozens of phone numbers on demand. Now I don’t even know my own parents’ phone numbers without Siri to help light the way. Data and technology are everywhere, and we all have an insatiable appetite for more.

So how do we deal with the growing mass of information? Sometimes you have to look back to know how to go forward.

Stars: The First Open-Access Data Source

Today’s business leaders are looking more and more to objects, cubes and dashboards to direct their business. But not too long ago (relatively speaking), mariners and travelers had a different source of information to help them find their way: the stars.

Centuries of nautical experimentation led to steady improvement, and the capabilities of celestial navigation have evolved from an estimated bearing to an incredibly accurate global positioning. Through the use of sextants, almanacs and honed principles, it’s now possible to charter a ship anywhere in the world just by observing the positions of the stars. The same information has existed for millennia, but the capability to understand and interpret it has vastly progressed.

How Are You Consuming Data?

Fast-forward to the present and companies are accumulating exorbitant amounts of information. While the amount of data is rapidly increasing, has our ability to interpret it kept up? Though it is all available for querying and consumption, sometimes the right way to approach it is unclear. Sometimes the “solution” becomes a rallying cry for more, more, more data.

But “more data” is not always the answer. In fact, it is almost never the answer. It is the intelligent and directed use of data that can ultimately lead us to a worthwhile destination.

Getting Where You Want to Go

It is certainly possible that you need more information. But it’s also possible that you have all the information you need, and you can’t access it or can’t extract value from it. The latter problem plagues organizations everywhere, because their data is locked away in disparate systems, silos and spreadsheets that aren’t able to talk to each other. Business leaders get trapped in manual mash-up of data that either doesn’t provide what they need, or it yields erroneous information.

Much like the mariners didn’t have time to waste on myths about Orion’s Belt when they were just trying to find the North Star, so business leaders can’t get tied up in inconsequential information when directing a key business strategy.

Separating the Essential from the Inconsequential

To know what data you need and how to use it, consider what you want to be able to do as a result of looking at a given report. Define your end goal. Then map out the road to get there. You may find that you produce a leaner process that yields more information than you knew you had.

How do you refine the amount of data you’re looking at? What questions do you have about creating a more effective measuring strategy?

Tags: data, reporting

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