8 min read

Analytics Platforms Should Simplify Decision Making

Stop forcing everyone to become data analysts. Use data to create dashboards that simplify decision making processes.
Written by
Jonathan Mitchell
Published on
April 12, 2024

Let's see if this sounds familiar to anyone who uses analytics to search for differentiation within your organization. "Look at this beautiful dashboard that's been created. There are all of these graphs and charts that tell you EVERYTHING you need to know. Now you can make whatever decisions that need to be made. Isn't it great to have these pretty graphics and illustrations that tell you, simply, what the data looks like?"

And yet, we'll sit there looking at another creation from Tableau, Power BI, or any other tool, wondering what in the world is being shown. Sure, the graphics are great. Pretty graphics? Even better. But what purpose are they serving if there's no substance or actionable intelligence?

Here's the thing with analytics. Dashboards make sense to the people who look at them every day. Expertise enables understanding, and this is no exception. The mistake is not questioning who will be looking at these graphics. Do they have the necessary background? Are they focused on business impact? And, most importantly - How is it helping with decision-making?

Simplicity Is The Secret

Perspective is important. As a data analyst or anyone using the tools mentioned above, there needs to be a change in mindset. Good for you if you're used to interacting with data and discerning its meaning. That isn't the case for everyone within your organization, and it's entirely possible that whoever is viewing your dashboards falls in this boat, too.

The first order of business should be to understand what processes or decisions are being contemplated. Intelligent usage of data enables idea validation and turns possibilities into concrete decisions. The priority here isn’t exposure. Showing data to stakeholders is just the first step, not the entire process. If the presented dashboards create more questions than answers, then we’re moving backward. That realization will make it even easier to make the upcoming graphs, charts, etc., accessible to non-analysts.

In most cases, having the "mindset of a CEO" is a foolproof path to egotism, but it may reap some rewards in this instance. Analytics are important. Data is important. But people internalizing the information need to know what they're seeing and why they're seeing it. So, let’s keep it simple.

There's an important question to ask here. What decisions are the viewers of this information trying to make? When you understand that, you can approach the creation of helpful analytical graphics in a more nuanced way.

Finding The Why

Understanding the "why" behind specific patterns or trends in analytics enables organizations to uncover the root causes of issues or successes. It goes beyond just observing the surface-level data. It delves into the underlying factors that drive certain behaviors or outcomes. By identifying these underlying reasons, businesses can make informed decisions and take appropriate actions to address problems or capitalize on opportunities. Without understanding the "why," firms would be limited to merely reacting to the symptoms without truly understanding the core issues.

Think of it this way. Humans are tasked with making countless decisions on a daily basis. That includes every sphere of life, whether that be social, professional, or personal. As a species, we’re able to internalize information from a variety of sources, contemplate the best course of action, then take the leap. Analytical findings, no matter the appearance, just represent another source of information for us to synthesize. That’s why simplicity and accessibility are key when creating powerful dashboards. We already have information overload; don’t let Power BI or Tableau convince you that just because the graphics are appealing, the information is easily digestible.

This leads back to finding the “why.” When context is understood, the data can be succinct and understandable for all parties. The conversation begins, everyone can get on the same page, and then the first steps occur. Fine-tuning and making the necessary adjustments to the graphics is only possible when a comprehensive view is available. Putting effort into this investigation enables more profound insights into user behavior and preferences. It helps organizations to go beyond mere data points and understand the motivations and needs of their users.

Only One Piece Of The Puzzle

Analytics are the quantitative part of this equation, but another factor must be included —qualitative occurrences. There's far more on the mind of an executive than just data. Market conditions, venture opportunities, societal events, and many other variables exist. This other side of the coin must be considered when utilizing analytics.

Now, if you flip the coin too many times, analysis paralysis can rear its ugly head. We don’t want to elongate the process, just be more inclusive in what’s contemplated. Decision latency is a scourge, but one that can be defeated. If you’re able to combine the quantitative (analytics/dashboards) and qualitative (market events), you create a hybrid approach. That capability enables intelligent decision-making processes. Then, a business can ride that wave to seek new ventures, accrue market share, and create differentiation.

Sure, there's plenty to be gained from data, but if it's completely missing nuance and context, then we're just back at square one. Finding abnormalities within data enables differentiation, but the big picture is just as relevant. Any sort of analytical insight must be balanced against qualitative factors.

Narrow Mindsets Net Poor Results

All of these words, and yet the final premise is simple. Make sure to avoid narrow perspectives. A horse is much faster with its blinders on but is completely unaware of its surroundings. As a business, that level of isolation can be devastating. The purpose of analytics isn’t to cloud the picture, but to create clarity. If your dashboards aren’t enabling efficient decision-making, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Analytics are incredible. At no point should they be undervalued. The tricky part is making sure the right questions are being asked. The answer is only as important the question. Only then can actionable intelligence be gathered. All humans are decision-makers, but only some are analysts. Any graphic created should be accessible to both parties, not just one.

So, if you love your pretty dashboards, don't worry. There's plenty of use for them. Just make sure the quality of the data matches that of the graphics. Otherwise, your organization will be paddling upstream without an oar and overtaken by competitors that correctly utilize the power of big data.


Anand Krishnan

CEO and Managing Partner

Andrew Zarkadas

Vice President - Growth

Shamik Mitra

Vice President - Client Services

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