Data is increasing in complexity and volume, and the tools we use to gain a holistic understanding of it need to keep up for better business decision-making.
The data pool is growing by the minute. Increased digitalization in every aspect of life means companies are bringing in more data than ever on their business, their consumers and everything else under the sun. And access to this data isn’t (or shouldn’t be) confined to the data analyst anymore.

Technology has the potential to bring the value of data to the front line of businesses where it can be used to build understanding and take real, positive actions that can drive businesses forward. Furthermore, the speed and confidence at which an organization can operate with modernized data capabilities is equally transformational. It will take a new type of data enablement tool to get there.

Integrating ALL the data for holistic views
We already know that data is coming in from all directions. Solutions are needed that integrate and harmonize multiple disparate data sources to give a total cross-data-source view, which is always greater than the sum of the individual parts. This will help businesses build a holistic view of vital metrics, such as customer satisfaction and behavior, brand strength, sales, and more.

However, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to data integration and analysis. There is a growing understanding that tools must be optimized for specific types and sources of data. For example, for companies that rely on primary consumer research data, such as that garnered from surveys, to help them understand their audiences, typical business intelligence tools won’t usually fit the bill. Survey data, for example, requires specialized tools that generalist data analysis platforms do not have, such as weighting and multi-level response analysis.

Increasing accessibility and ease of use
If end-users of the data can actually access the data and unlock its value themselves, they’ll need an easy-to-use interface to get there. Current tools are definitely easier to use than those of days gone by, but that progress is balanced against the vast increase in volume and complexity of data the tools must now handle. Because the value of any data is limited to its veracity, it really doesn’t matter how easy it is to get value from data if it has not been properly curated for accuracy, reliability, and usability.

For that reason, the most important skills to master are: organizing data to maximize value extraction and making sense of (generating understanding from) that organized data. Because we believe it is critical that data be available to more people across the business than just data analysts, this may sound like a tough proposition. But the tools and technology do exist that can facilitate these skills, and do the heavy lifting in organizing and analyzing data, so it is more accessible to more stakeholders.

The benefits of easier-to-use tools and better data integration are only just beginning to be realized. There are still vast improvements ahead of us. For now, the main benefits are wider, more seamless sharing of data across businesses and…incrementally faster access to data by those who are in a position to use it.

The future of data enablement tools
The most significant absence from today’s tools is a hyper-focus on their primary purpose. This purpose is overarching and ubiquitous, and yet it is often overlooked: to grow understanding of the world through the use of data. Too many platforms focus on the mechanics of just a few parts of the overall process. More focus needs to come to making data usable and accessible to those who will move a business forward through data-driven action. Until then, data and its related enablement tools are pure cost with no return.

Technologies like automation and machine learning will continue to take a center stage in the future, handling more and more data organizing, harmonizing, and shaping, freeing the humans to do the things machines cannot yet do. This will give curious minds more space to dig into the data, uncover insights and understand a holistic view. We will see more of this deft balance of human talent and efficient technology come into play in the future.

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