Your business, like your life, is surrounded by legions of data of varying shapes, sizes, values and heritage. Finding your dream data requires the same skills you use in a courtship. Okay, so the impetus and methods may be different, but the identical instincts and judgments apply. Here are 9 secrets to success:
- Finding your “perfect match” takes work. If you think you can just lumber into the nearest database and find the right data point winking from the formula bar, well you’re sorely mistaken. Great data isn’t easy to find, and like in life, it isn’t out there looking for you. So put a strategy together, get off your desktop, and begin a concise, targeted search.
- Define your must-haves. Your spreadsheets and data sets are important, but they don’t mean anything if you don’t have a clear understanding of what you are looking for. Think before you move and employ creative means to tease out the valuable information.
- Ignorance is bliss. Your lack of experience may be your best asset. Preconceptions born of too much industry experience often block one’s ability to think creatively and find the right data “match.”
- Date around. Don’t be afraid to combine data from two or more different sources. The natural interplay between seemingly disparate data sets can result in unforeseen insights into your own business processes and performance.
- Quality over Quantity. Really! Whether you’re boasting a brontobyte or simply sporting a few hundred gigs, the size of your data is irrelevant to the potential value stored within.
- Employ all resources. There are hundreds of powerful tools out there to help you manage your mountain of data. Spend a little more money and get a leg up on the competition. All’s fair in love and war.
- Don’t rush in. If you want instant gratification, you can always grab some easy, superficial data. But that shallow data won’t provide you with long-term happiness. Move slowly and purposefully through each data set and listen to it as you do – don’t expect valuable data to reveal itself easily. The best data is worth the wait.
- Put a ring on it. Once you’ve found good solid “normalized” data – the kind that comes from strong lineage without all the noise and the annoying metadata – document it and make it your own. It will likely help you to spawn more high quality data.
- Consult the experts. In the end, you may need help. After all, data manipulation is more art than science. There are fifty shades of gray that only an experienced hand can help you to navigate complex data sets, so don’t be afraid to reach out to a pro.