Data Tells a Story, It Doesn't Give the Answer

Many companies are focusing on being "data-centric". I always try to ask questions on what that exactly means because everyone has a different definition.

I personally think that data is critical to making great decisions. Data rarely provides the final answer. Data tends to tell a story. The decisions - and subsequent answers - comes from how we understand and interpret those stories.

Ask a lot of questions about the data. Understand where the data came from and what might have influenced it. Understand the question you are trying to answer (or what problem you are trying to solve). Then think about how the data might be missing part of the story - which it is.

A great example, I was reviewing some survey results for a client. The employees indicated that they felt respected by their manager, but they indicated that they didn't feel listened to or appreciated by their manager. The data said "the employees feel respected". The story was that the managers were weak in some key areas that show respect, so the survey number most likely isn't as strong as it looks.

No one piece of data is the key, it all fits in with the entire story.