To illustrate the value and importance of external data, I often use the analogy of driving a car. In short, in order to drive a car you do not just look at the dashboard. If you do not look out the windshield it is very difficult to stay on the road. The best you can do is wait until you hit a rumble strip and then correct back. Running a business using only internal data is much the same as driving a car when only looking at your dashboard. You can’t correct your course until the situation is dire.
The Auto Industry Is A Leader
I’m not a big car person, but I am a complete Tesla owner wannabe. When lusting over a Model S the other day it occurred to me that this analogy is starting to become a little obsolete. I wish I could say this was due to advancements in analytics practices, however it is due to the advancements in car technology. Cars these days are bringing all sorts of external information to the driver’s dashboard. It started with a simple temperature reading to warn drivers of icy conditions and now cars can adjust speed, have cameras, park themselves and at least 20 brands can avoid some collisions. Tesla is going as far as to claim lane changes by just tapping the turn signal and there are many self-driving cars in development. It's completely crazy!!
The so-called "slow-to-change" auto industry, encumbered by strict regulations, has figured out how to integrate internal and external information from the physical world into dynamic decisions driven by computational analysis. However, many businesses fail to simply integrate internal and external data to make long-term strategic decisions.
Why Is Analytics Lagging?
I believe there are two primary drivers as to why businesses are lagging: the ability to access the information and the ability to integrate the information. Although there is a massive amount of external data available for analytics it can be difficult to find the desired information or even know what is available. Qlik DataMarket helps solve this issue. The available data is curated and appears right in the data load interface. Users can work through all the various categories of data and select the specific data of interest. This goes a long way to help users find useful external data.
Once the desired external data is found, bringing it together for a unified view with internal data is key. If this is difficult, then it will only be done on occasion when the value is already proven. This means that experimentation and exploration does not occur. Being able to go from “I wonder….” to “I know…” quickly, only encourages more questions to be explored. The cost to ask and answer a question dramatically influences the creativity of the questions. Simply put, the easier it is: the more it will be done. The Qlik Indexing (QIX) Engine is uniquely suited for rapidly bringing together multiple data sources because it includes all of the data in the analysis and does not favor a ‘primary source’. James Fisher calls this equal rights for data.
What Can We Do About It?
Gaining a fuller view of your business starts with expectations. You should expect to need internal and external data in order to make decisions and discovery insights. You should expect bringing multiple sources together to be a normal activity. Then you will only accept technologies that are really good at doing this and treat all data equally. Finally, you must expect the world to change. If you expect the world to change then you will also expect your data needs to change so you will insist on having an agile data environment that can quickly add internal and external sources.
Do not accept a world where your car has more situational awareness than your business. Insist on including external data in all your analysis and find ways to make it an easy process. That’s how we roll at Qlik – pun intended.