Turning Data Into Actionable Insights Isn’t as Complicated as You Think

This article is an excerpt from my new ebook, The Hidden Data in Your Company. You can purchase the full ebook here.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought back an idea from the 1930s: speakeasies. The difference is that this time it wasn’t about alcohol but fitness. Fitness Studios were one of the hardest-hit industries, which led to some of them operating in secret. 

People would show up for classes, windows would be tinted, and restrictions would be ignored. I can imagine people sneaking around with their yoga mat as they head to their “illegal” class. If you weren’t part of the “in” club, you would never know this was going on!

There are always hidden doors in our lives. In business, these hidden doors are opportunities for growth, revenue, and higher profits. They could be new customer segments, new products, or more efficient ways of doing business.

The guiding map to these hidden doors is your data. I’m not talking about just your numbers, reports, or dashboards. This is typically what people think about when I talk about data. Instead, I want to expand the definition to include the ideas, insights, and decisions within your company.

I also want to briefly tackle the myth that turning data into actionable insights is difficult. This perception has been created due to the incredible amount of data and noise that companies are surrounded by regularly.

It can be overwhelming to go through all your data. Even knowing where to start can seem like a daunting task. This is where the Timezones of Data Maturity comes in handy. I created a simple way for companies to rate their data maturity and know where to focus their resources.

Timezones of Data
Timezones of Data

Here’s how to use this assessment for your own business:

  • Past: can your company understand what happened last quarter, last year, or last month?
  • Present: can your company understand what is going on right now? This could include active marketing campaigns, recent product launches, and customer success.
  • Future: can your company predict what will happen in the future? This includes forecasting, product recommendations, and future strategy.

In my experience, companies should prioritize the present over the past and the past over the future. You can’t expect to predict the future if you can’t understand the past and the present.  This is the basic process for turning data into actionable insights.

The assessment also helps clarify common confusion around data roles. Data Analysis is typically suited towards the past, Data Reporting is for the present, and Data Science is for the future. This can guide you when making hiring and technology decisions. We’ll talk more about technology in the third ebook as well.

Under each of these areas, you want to rate how well you perform across the following areas:

This is where the Hidden Doors lie. You’ll find them in the past, present, and future. 

I worked with a tourism governmental agency at the height of COVID-19. We needed to summarize all the data they had into something easily digestible for their stakeholders (hotels, resorts, etc.). Through all the fog, we provided clarity on how the industry was affected by COVID-19 and how they should plan their business. 

In another example, I worked with a payment processor in New Zealand. We used the data to understand the onboarding performance of their software product. Based on the learnings from past and present data, they could redesign their onboarding flow to increase sign-ups and reduce the burden on their customer success team.

I’m always excited when I start working with companies because I know these hidden doors are out there. We simply have to find them and walk through them.

One more thing before you go! Do you know how to get more insights out of your data? 

All companies are sitting on a goldmine of data that they haven't fully explored. It's not about technology or capturing more data. The key is to learn how to make the most of your current data and convert it into actionable insights. This is the main idea behind my first book, The Data Miage: Why Companies Fail to Actually Use Their Data

I'm excited to announce the release of the book through all major retailers. If you're interested, you can download the first chapter for free using the form below. You'll learn what the best data-driven companies do differently and how to make sure you're playing the right data game.