Lights. Camera... Actionable Data!


Making data actionable is a lot like producing a movie. Data is all around us, readily and easily available, especially with advances in cloud technology and AI. But making data actionable – or in other words, useful – isn’t necessarily easy. There’s a process to follow to create an Oscar-nominated film, and the same can be said for making sure your data is actionable. Turns out, they’re both quite similar:

  • Write a Great Script With a Dynamite Ending
  • Partner with a Studio to Produce the Movie
  • Record from Multiple Angles
  • Pay Attention to Special Effects and Editing
  • Start planning the sequel
Write a Great Script with a Dynamite Ending

Can a movie be considered great if it doesn’t have a good ending? I think not. But neither can the ending happen without a great plot – that is, how the story unfolds to get to the fantastic finish.

Likewise, you need to understand the data narrative so that you know how you arrived at the blockbuster solution. The data you provide must deliver on its promise – it must help someone make a decision – or else it will fall flat just like a box office clunker. How you get there is the trick question.

One of our clients wanted to find ways to save precious moments between the time their bus drivers clock into work and the time the buses leave the “bus yard” on their routes. A few minutes could mean a difference of millions of dollars in revenue. Our client knew the end goal, but not the storyline. We helped them start collecting data: time from clock-in to the time the bus starts; time from starting the bus to the time it leaves the bus yard; etc. Now that they had a script, the data started telling a story. We could analyze where the time gaps were longer than expected, and find ways to fix that. In the end, this data story turned out to be a megahit.

Partner with a Studio to Produce the Movie

The only way a movie gets to production is with the help of studio funders/producers. Funding dictates whether a movie can afford top actors and high-end visual effects.

The same can be said for data. Having buy-in from your key stakeholders on the strategic vision means business teams are more likely to use the data for decision-making. The strategic vision involves ensuring that you collect the right data, use appropriate technology for ingestion and curation, and lift/address any security barriers, among a myriad of other factors. Once you have buy-in from your stakeholders, it’s also important that data gets into the hands of your decision-makers. When stakeholders have a vested interest in the output, this helps ensure adoption – and productive and actionable data.

Record from Multiple Angles

The best movies incorporate different shots, camera angles, and lenses to offer a deeper perspective and engage the audience. Movies shot with just one camera and a single view of the action feel flat in our modern world. So, too, gathering data from different angles across the company can be critical in providing good, actionable data.

Another one of our clients aimed to reduce injuries and safety incidents in the workplace. Collecting data on the number and type of injuries alone wasn’t enough. We needed to also collect data on leading indicators that would (hopefully) prevent future incidents – such as near misses; incidents of concerns reported by employees; lessons learned from an incident; safety protocols documented, etc.

By creating checklists, interactive dashboards, and intake applications (aka different camera angles), you can use ETL/ELT processes to ingest, aggregate, and transform data for your audience. Giving end users this information at their fingertips makes it more likely that they will both collect the desired data, and that it will be accurate. Employees are incentivized to collect this information because they have a vested interest in preventing injuries and creating a safe work environment. Aggregating these data points from multiple sources or angles makes your end product better, and in turn, more actionable.

Pay Attention to Special Effects and Editing

If you love Marvel movies, it’s probably not because of the comic book storylines. Rather, it’s because the special effects, costumes, makeup, and editing are epic.

Just as the presentation can make or break a movie, presentation is equally important in making data actionable. If you have to search through a sea full of data to find a critical KPI, how actionable is that?

We use UI/UX best practices in designing reports so that the important pieces of information are immediately visible so they can be acted upon. Then, we design drill-down options where users can get more detailed information on the top-level metric. This helps you understand the bigger picture. Maybe one location is skewing the dataset completely? Or maybe the underlying parameters of one KPI are too big? Being able to provide lineage equips you with actionable data that is readily available to your audience.

Start Planning the Sequel

Do there need to be 10 Fast and Furious movies in the franchise? Umm, maybe not, but fans keep coming back for more!

After you have provided data in a clear and organized report, with drill-downs and great visuals, don’t stop there. Continue to evolve and look for new ways to attack your business challenges. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence to improve the quality of your dataset
  • Add customer feedback data from direct sources (such as customer surveys) or indirect sources (such as social media listening)
  • Continue learning about new technologies, for instance the Microsoft.Source newsletter
  • Add datasets from new programs/processes that can be beneficial to your overall data point
  • Look for third-party datasets that can supplement and add value to your internal data

Data may be all around us, but making data actionable is the key to being able to make smart decisions. CoStrategix specializes in helping organizations mature their data and analytics capabilities – from modernizing their data warehouse, to designing actionable data visualizations and self-reporting, to data science modeling and infusing AI into your solutions. As they say in the movies, how can we help you with Lights, Camera, ACTIONable data?

Recent Blog Posts

Setting goals for yourself is key to motivation
Setting Goals For Yourself is the Key to Motivation
Embrace the Chaos! Exploring the World of Chaos Engineering
High-Altitude Climbing is a Lot Like Solving an IT Challenge
Best Practices for Getting Started with Azure DevOps
Just Get Started with LLM Use Cases