Talk to any senior executive today and chances are they will flag real-time analytics as one of the top needs of their organization. This holds true for young startups who’ve built their own KPI dashboards, companies who spend millions of dollars per year on a variety of advanced analytics solutions, and everyone on between. But what do they mean when they say real-time?
There are two very different use cases that are prevalent in the world of analytics: one is the need for very deep, thorough and precise analysis. This is the domain of data scientists and highly skilled analysts who are capable of manipulating large data sets and extracting business-relevant insights from them in a timely manner. The other, and I would argue, more immediate and wide-spread need is for regular, frictionless and effective communication of a select set of key metrics to audiences of differing levels of analytical experience.
The challenge within many organizations today is that both of these very different use cases are usually addressed by the same internal teams using the same set of tools. Analytics and especially BI tools to date have been chosen with the analytics professional as the primary user. That’s changing — and while we’ll still need R, SAS, Adobe, advanced modeling techniques and a bevy of plotting and visualization solutions, the same set of tools don’t also have to be the ultimate day-to-day data visualization and presentation layer for your whole organization. The last thing your head of sales needs while on the road is a huge Excel file she’ll try to look at on her phone minutes before a client meeting.
What the majority of business users need when it comes to analytics boils down to the following:
To quickly size up the challenge within your organization ask your colleagues the following questions:
For a company to be truly data-driven, easy access to key metrics is a necessary starting point. When you’re evaluating what to invest in, think more about the needs of a non-expert audience spread across multi-functional teams and all parts of the organization. Empowering everyone in your organization to make data-driven decisions will happen more cost-effectively if you find ways to democratize access to data and relevant business insights. If the next time you ask about KPIs your colleagues whip out their mobile devices to enthusiastically show you patterns, you’re well on your way.
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