Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday: Data Discovery- Sometimes You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

In a definitive sense, data discovery is a user-driven process of searching for patterns or specific items from multiple data sets. In layman’s terms, it’s a way to allow people to get the facts they need quickly, in order to do their jobs confidently, in a format that is both instinctive and accessible. Data discovery appeals strongly to business users, but some business intelligence (BI) leaders are reluctant to encourage adoption. They claim that even though it’s optimized for easy one-off analysis, it traditionally lacks the governance principles for consistent answers and truths. But what happens when BI is your data discovery foundation?

In today’s “Throwback Thursday” post, adapted from the original article written by Jon Oesch, VP of Sales at Jet Reports, in 2014, learn how data discovery has its own place in business intelligence and is still filling the gap between traditional reporting and advanced analytics.  We’ll also provide you with a key example of how and why user-based data gathering combined with BI gives you access to information that you didn’t even know existed!


Data Discovery: Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know

Author: Jon Oesch

I once had a boss who would start his regular interrogations by saying: “Look, I don’t know what I don’t know on this. You need to help me come up with some smart questions.”

It used to drive me crazy, but now I understand the wisdom behind that statement: “I don’t know what I don’t know.”

Some things you do know. For example: you know you have receivables at your company.

You sometimes know what you don’t know. For example: I need to know (but I don’t) what the final receivables number was for last month.

This is typically what the standard reports in your company are designed to tell you—the things you already know you should know.

The funny thing is, some of the best questions are the ones you don’t know to ask yet. This is where the ability to perform data discovery against a business intelligence (BI) solution comes in. If reporting is about static information, like an Aged AR Report, then BI is about turning that static information into something dynamic. It’s about having your data become flexible so you can drill in, down, and across it. It’s about having quick and easy access so that you can ask questions of your data and have the answers revealed to you within the same moment.

Immediate access to information such as this drives good questions which in turn, drive good answers that will drive even better questions.

For example, your AR report shows that receivables have increased over the last 3 months. Well…why? You go to the BI tool and pull up the 10-worst performing companies on AR. Now let’s group them by category. Once grouped, you discover that 8 out of 10 of these companies are in the purple widget industry. You didn’t really expect that and it makes you ask, “What’s been happening in the purple widget industry over the last few months?”

You may now be wondering what is happening with your entire group of purple widget company clients. Once you group them together, you can see there is a 40% decrease in orders from purple widget companies year-over-year. This confirms the hunch, but why is this happening? You look at the order details from all purple widget companies and see a sharp decline in purple widget springs. Why is that? You fire an email off to the purchasing agent at ACME purple widget company and ask: “I see your purple widget spring orders have gone down significantly, why is that?”

As it turns out, there is a new low cost purple widget spring product in the market from a foreign competitor and everyone in the industry is switching over.

Asking better questions is the academic part of the exercise. What we are talking about now, my friends, is strategy. The old adage about turning data into information that can be used to run the company better has come true. Now we are making product decisions that are going to have a near-term impact to the bottom line. Clean, logical decisions based on the real data that you are compiling every day.

Your standard report leaves you with a hunch and a set of assumptions. Data discovery is a user-driven decision making process that takes just minutes from start to finish. Business intelligence is the governed foundation for the answers. Removing the uncertainty and moving faster than everyone else in your market– this may be the competitive advantage you’ve been searching for.

Have a set of questions you’d like to discover? Get in touch and we’ll show you how it well it can work for you.