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How to know if you have the data skills to transform your organization

Jul 29, 2019

Do you consider yourself a business analyst? Today, pretty much everyone is interacting with data every day.

In fact, there’s so much data that sometimes we suffer from data overload or we use the wrong numbers and don’t measure the right thing. Or worse, we can’t get our hands on the data fast enough to make it meaningful. 

With all the data that is available, how do we harness that power and avoid data overload?  

We must first address three main challenges:

  1. Some analysts and end users do not understand how to read the data.  
  2. Analytics is not cookie cutter; dashboards are not perfect for all analysis. 
  3. Even though data visualization tools have become easier to use, data preparation remains gated behind IT.

Understanding the data

Every day we are interacting with data, but simply knowing the number does not mean we have data literacy skills. 

If you have revenue of $1 million, is that good? If last year you earned $500,000, then it’s great. If you earned $5 million, then it’s not.   

That’s why the ability to read, write and communicate data in context is at the core of data literacy. 

Context is also critical when presenting data reports or visualizations. Without context, no one will understand your purpose for measuring or highlighting any given business metric. When trying to assess your data literacy, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Can I analyze the data in the context of my business need?  
  2. Can I design a solution that highlights my analysis?  
  3. Can I tell a story with that data and make decisions in my organization?

Imperfect dashboards

As organizations evolve, their ability to analyze data evolves with it. Most companies start at simple reporting, then evolve to using dashboards and then, finally, tapping into the power of machine learning.  

Most of us have likely seen simple reporting in spreadsheets. But many of us want to drill down and see what might be affecting those bottom-line numbers.  

That is where dashboards come in. Dashboards allow us to drill into specific data points in real time and understand what is going on in the day to day.  

But dashboards are just a grouping of numbers that tells a limited story. And real-time dashboards are only valuable if you’re constantly monitoring and responding to them. 

On the other hand, machine learning uses the power of artificial intelligence to monitor your data for you and alert you earlier when action might need to be taken.  

In addition, AI can help identify new opportunities that you may be missing.  

As you follow this data journey, bear in mind that the next level does not replace the previous. You may find that when trying to communicate your analysis, a simple report is much more effective than a complex dashboard. 

Access to data

In addition, it’s important that you have full access to the data. For years, data has been stored in complex databases — and still is, for the most part.  

Most databases do a great job of housing data but are not much help with extracting it.  

As out-of-the-box data visualization tools have become increasingly drag-and-drop or wizard based, we still face the same problem: What if we cannot get our data?

Most organizations have flirted with or built some sort of data warehouse, but two problems still exist: 

Either it is prohibitively expensive or it becomes increasingly more difficult to add or maintain the source, adding to expense.  

Through tools like the Microsoft Common Data Mode, l have been able to create a much cheaper pseudo data warehouse, which gets data into the hands of analysts faster. First, since it is cloud-based, the need for expensive infrastructure is eliminated. Second, the common data model comes complete with predefined entities and fields that you can easy map to start to build a single, unified view for your organization. Lastly, the common data model is application-agnostic, meaning no matter how you access your table of accounts, everyone gets the exact same data. 

Having this true single source of truth cuts down on conflicting numbers and confusion. Unlocking the gates to data means a data-literate team can access data quickly so that businesses are able to respond quicker.

Want to learn more?

Check out our webinar to learn how to leverage Power BI to pull detailed financial data from Microsoft Dynamics GP and other sources, helping your organization monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) and drill into the detail to discover why and where opportunities exist to improve performance. 


Jason J. Papador
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