CommonSense Blog

The Real Holy Grail in Big Data – Clarity and Confidence

By Gary Grates | Sep 19, 2013

CoUnderstanding “Observations” and “Insights”

The business tsunami known as “Big Data” is causing seismic changes inside organizations as leaders try to grasp the new knowledge it gives them and what it might imply, and then apply it to strategic and operational decision-making.

One critical, yet often overlooked, byproduct of this new found genius is just how the “analysis” is utilized and activated.  Typically, the data produced falls into one of two categories: Observations and Insights.  Each provides decision-makers with important knowledge from which to base their choices.  And both are important reminders for communications professionals that data must be culled and shaped in a manner that is meaningful to the overall goals of the business.

While Observations and Insights are inter-related, the differences between the two are significant. For example, Observations provide a snapshot of what’s happening:

  • How many people are clicking on your website.
  • Number of followers on Yammer.
  • Number of shares per story.
  • Number of likes per story.
  • Number of replies/comments per story.
  • Number of messages by user.

Observations give clients a snapshot of what’s happening today – i.e., the result of current activity and behavior. However, the combination of gathered Observations with an intimate knowledge and awareness of the business – its challenges, competitive environment, opportunities, etc. – helps us build relevant Insights, making the observations actionable and meaningful.

In other words, Insights are a much deeper application of the data. It helps us identify trends, capture unseen realities, and detail critical behaviors or actions, all towards an effort to assimilate deeper meaning to influence action, make smarter decisions, and comprehend more deeply the shifts in the marketplace.

Insights might, for example, reveal the following:

  • People who purchase your product also relate to certain causes, which allow for new and novel partnerships to drive sales.
  • Employees are more than 2X likely to engage with local leadership than corporate.
  • Provocative content increases retention internally by a 3:1 margin.

From a management perspective, then, both Observation and Insight are essential to decision-making.  From a marketing, communications, and counseling standpoint, discerning the difference between the two while balancing each element results in a cohesive construct and a value-added method for optimizing data.

The ultimate benefit though is clarity.  Data and analytics wash away the fragments of an otherwise distracted environment clearing the way for better decisions and new knowledge.