The intangible side of data

15 August 2016

Big data architecture. Self-service analytics. User interactive visualisation tools. All this and more – lately the world has been obsessed with data and technology but what does it really mean?

We often emphasise on the processing power and analysis tools used but that does not suffice to help end users. Information can often get lost in translation when the message is so long and details complex but as consultants it is our job to help our clients distil that message and make insight simple and easy to absorb.

The data has more or less always been there but beyond crunching numbers, it is about embedding a new way of thinking and that is so much more than technology. Good data analysis should be tool agnostic and focus on the behavioural impact rather than the ‘physical’ output.

For that we need to focus on the intangible side of data - the nature of users, their interaction with it and its impact.

The people

More often than not we hear about creating ‘data-centric organisations’ when in fact we should rather be focusing on ‘user-centric data’. It does not matter the scale, depth of analysis and complexity of methods – if there is not a match between the message and the recipient’s ability to interpret it, it will get lost. Thus, we should be focusing on producing insight that is comprehensible to the people receiving it.

The journey

Good insight takes people on a journey. Data is a way to explore and understand the world around us better and so it should be an interactive experience, not a one off transmission.

Technology is science but storytelling is art. Telling a compelling and coherent story is the key to relaying insight and so we should be putting ourselves in their shoes and walk their walk to understand exactly what are the issues that the users are facing and drive them through the noise.

The purpose

Data should act as a starting point not an end answer – does it pass the ‘so what’ test?

Ultimately, is should be a behavioural trigger, whereby users either can make decisions based on it or change the way they act to correct some outcome. As such selecting the analysis that can enable action is crucial to successful insight.

Where to next - UX as a state of mind for data analytics

It is no longer about big data – the focus is now on small data that is fit to the user’s needs and increasingly shorter attention spans. For that we need to adopt UX as a state of mind for data analytics rather than as a separate discipline.

If we can do this then we can reduce the struggle derived from combining complex technology, messy data and change-resistant stakeholders in order to deliver successful transformational projects that will stick with our clients.

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