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Asking Questions of Your Data

People working and discussing business

You have goals and strategies for your organization. Every day, you spend time working on bringing those strategies to life. Strategies are not stagnant; you have to update them based on the changing needs of your business. How do you know that your strategy is on the right track?

Everyone tells you to use data. Data is the answer to whether what you are doing is successful. Data is also overwhelming. According to App Developer Magazine, there has been more data created in the last 2 years than in the previous 5,000. When you look around your organization, you have a multitude of data sources. There is your accounting software, your sales software, your marketing analytics, and on and on. Where do you even start?

After you have identified where to start comes the hard part – getting an answer from the data. That’s what everyone has told you, right? That data is the answer. Here’s the deal: data is not the answer. Data can help you find the answer. If data is not the answer, then what is the question? Or really, what are the questions? And how do you know that you are asking the right questions.

At trepwise, we help our clients identify the right questions to be asking of their data. The first step to making sure you are asking the right question is tying your question back to your goals and strategies.

Let’s walk through an example together. Your goal might be to diversify your product sales. Data can help you answer the question of “have we diversified our product sales to increase overall sales?”. You can pull a report from your sales software and compare your percentage of sales by product to-date compared to 6 months ago. Sales have diversified? Great. You have successfully met your goal!

Well, you met part of your goal. Your sales are diversified – but is that enough information to say that your strategies worked? Your sales might be more diverse, but do you know if your sales have increased. Let’s take a look:

Well it looks like your total sales have not actually increased even though your sales have diversified. Some potential questions to ask your data are: Is there a seasonality to our products? Have our distributors increased their total amount of products or have they spent the same amount on a wider variety of products?

How do you answer these questions? You can use your data. At trepwise, we use a variety of tools to analyze your data to find answers. Beyond what your sales and accounting software can provide, and even beyond Excel, we use Tableau to help visualize and dive into data to identify the answer. Tableau allows us to visualize data in a way that can make answers clear. It’s also nimble enough to answer both high-level and more discrete questions of our data. What if we want to look at one distributor to see whether they increased their purchases or just had different needs?

Well this chart is a lot more useful. Our distributor didn’t increase their total purchases, but they did buy more staplers in Q3 and Q4. We now have an answer to whether our strategy worked for this distributor. Our sales are more diversified, but they did not increase the total sales. So we need to change our strategy for increasing sales with this distributor.

You have the goals. You have the strategies. You have the data. What you need now, are the answers. Let’s work together to help you find them.