Problem Solving

State of Data Insights: How You Can Solve 2017’s Biggest Data Problems

Archana MadhavanJune 28, 2017

Interana’s 2017 State of Data Insights report is a deep look into how 170 people across different positions, companies, and industries handle data in their workplace.

But despite the differences in our broad pool of respondents, one problem stood out: 88% of companies overwhelmingly value data, but only 25% said everyone was able to adequately use data. Worse, only 11% of respondents said they rarely encountered an analytics question they couldn’t solve.

It’s clear that many companies have some structure for business analytics in place. But there’s a serious problem when it comes to actually using their analytics and harnessing the power of their data.

How can you fix these same problems in your company? The key lies in fostering company-wide data accessibility. Though that can be a big task, respondents led us to a few concrete suggestions to help start anyone off: use the right tools, get your whole team on the same page, and examine whether or not your key metrics are really working.

Read the full report

Use the right tools

Despite the presence of data at the companies we heard from, many of them do not have a user-friendly setup for their data. Only 35% of companies surveyed had a full-stack data solution with a visual interface. That means that companies are either building their own tools, using third party tools to access their data, or using a mix of internal and outsourced tools.

Building your own tools or relying on a patchwork to access your own database can be a limiting factor in how comfortable your whole team is with gathering and using data. Our top three responses about pain points were about flexibility, speed, and usability, all of which can be hard when building your own (patchwork of) tools:

Analytics Pain Points

Respondents ranked flexibility, speed and interface as their biggest pain points with their existing data and analytics solutions.

We’ve talked about some of the reasons that building your own solution isn’t always a good idea. When the people at your company are not able to manipulate data when a problem arises, your ability to solve problems is hindered. Flexibility, especially, helps you get the most out of your data no matter what question you’re trying to answer.

An out-of-the-box solution is often an upgrade on an internal system, especially when it comes to having an easy to use interface and flexibility — which were two of the top concerns we saw.

When your team is having a difficult time solving questions with data and you are using a tool you developed in-house, it’s probably time to start looking for full-stack options. They can solve your team’s big problems when working with data without months of development time.

Bring the whole team up to speed

Still, it’s not enough just to put an analytics tool in place and expect things to run smoothly. Only 25% of respondents described their company’s data culture as “everyone understands the importance of data and is equipped with the tools and knowledge to make data-informed decisions.”

Data Culture Description

Respondents answering the question “How do you describe the data culture at your company?” most frequently responded that everyone understands the importance of data, but not everyone has the tools or expertise to make data-informed decisions.

We’ve just spent some time talking about tools, so let’s assume that your company has bought (or developed) a tool that meets the needs of everyone at your company.

That leaves us with the second major component of working with data — knowledge. People on your team need support to be able to really get their hands dirty with your data. That’s a huge part of bridging the gap between understanding data is important and actually harnessing the power of your data. How can you empower your employees?

  • Everyone needs to be comfortable with the tool you use. This starts with thorough onboarding, but continues to building a place to go when team members have questions about how to use your tool, like a help library. If you’re building your own tool, take the time to build your internal resources around it, as well.
  • Data experts need to be able to communicate well with non-experts. When decision-makers understand the importance of data but aren’t able to get to the root of how their problems are being solved, there’s a problem. When questions and solutions are discussed, experts have to be able to clearly explain their findings.
  • Employees need continuous opportunities to learn. Although it might be easier if everyone worked with data on their own until they were comfortable with it, blocking off time for refreshers, reading, and getting more comfortable with using data is important.

Keep working to find ways to bolster your company-wide understanding of your data and data tools. It’s one of the most important steps between valuing your data and actually using it.

Examine your key metrics

Maybe the worst statistic that our report unearthed was that the vast majority of respondents said that 79% of analytics users at their company encountered a question they could not solve at least once a month, with 43% encountering that problem at least once a week.

Analytics Question

When asked how often analytics users had a question they couldn’t solve, the majority of respondents said that they encountered such a question at least once a month, with 33% responding they came across one weekly.

How can you get your team to a place where they are rarely encountering problems that stump them? If you have the right tool in place and your team is all on the same page about data, it might be time to reexamine your metrics.

What are you tracking and what are you manipulating? How easy is it for people to create and track new metrics? If you are constantly running into problems that your data isn’t helping you solve, it’s possible that you aren’t really getting at the metrics you need to be examining.

This doesn’t mean that all your key metrics should be thrown out the window. But it should force you to take a second look at what benefit you’re getting from your most-used metrics, and how often people on your team are experimenting with data outside of your key metrics.

With the right tools and the right know-how, your team needs to drive to find better metrics and better ways to manipulate the data you collect. Although there are always going to be problems that data alone can’t solve, you should aim to hone in on collecting the data that answers the most questions the most often.

How do you solve today’s problems?

Although each company we heard from had their own challenges and concerns, the overlapping concern was clear: getting real insights with data. Our State of Data Insights report showed that data is highly valued, even as companies struggle to use it to its full potential.

At Interana, we believe that the right tools, the right knowledge, and the right metrics can propel your team to a better use of data.

What are you doing to solve these problems at your own companies? How are your teams handling the data problems of today to pave the road for tomorrow? Let us know in the comments below.

Download the State of Data Insights 2017