I Believe in Data*
* [Caveats to follow]
Articles about analytics tend to take two forms. One style exalts data as a cure-all panacea.
Another style implies that people put too much faith in the power of their data. That there are limitations to data. That data can’t tell you everything about how to build, run and optimize your business. I agree.
My name is Michele Kiss, I am an analytics professional, and I don’t believe that data solves everything.
I believe in the appropriate use of data. I don’t believe that clickstream data after you redesign your site can tell you if people “like” it. I believe that there are many forms of data, that ultimately it is all just information, and that you need to use the right information for the right purpose. I do not believe in torturing a data set to extract an answer it is simply not equipped to provide.
I believe in the informed use of data. Data is only valuable when its i) definitions and its ii) context are clearly understood. I believe there is no such thing as pointing an analyst to a mountain of data and magically extracting insights. (Sorry, companies out there hiring data scientists with that overblown expectation.)
When a nurse tells your doctor, “150” and “95” those numbers are only helpful because your doctor knows that i) That’s your blood pressure reading and ii) Has a discussion with you about your diet, exercise, lifestyle, stress, family/genetic history and more. That data is helpful because it’s definition is clear, and your doctor has the right contextual information to interpret it.
I believe that the people and processes around your data determine success more than the data itself. A limited data set used appropriately in an organization will be far more successful than a massive data set with no structure around its use.
I believe data doesn’t have to be perfect to be useful, but I also believe you must understand why imperfections exist, and their effect. Perfect data can’t tell you everything, but outright bad data can absolutely lead you astray!
I believe that data is powerful, when the right data is used in the right way. I believe it is dangerously powerful when misused, either due to inexperience, misunderstanding or malice. But I don’t believe data is all powerful. I believe data is a critical part of how businesses should make decisions. But it is one part. If used correctly, it should guide, not drive.
Data can be incredibly valuable. Use it wisely and appropriately, along with all the tools available to your business.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your [big data set].”
– Analytics Shakepeare