Data Analysis: “Look Both Ways Before You Cross”Posted on Mar 2, 2017 9:12:44 AM
From those glorious first times when we were old enough to cross the street, to the hair-raising times when we were old enough for someone to trust us behind the wheel of a car, one thing we all repeatedly heard at varying levels of intensity was “always look both ways before you cross.” Why is this such a universally accepted truth and lesson taught around the world and what does it have to do with analyzing data and business intelligence? This lesson is universally taught and understood because the reality is that crossing a street anywhere in the world without making sure you have all the information to make the right decision, can have life-changing, disastrous consequences and you may not be afforded a second chance to get it right. Nowhere is this more evident in working with school district and local governments than in the areas of strategic planning and decision-making.
Imagine the street as a timeline. To the left is the past, and all the information you have assembled to date. In front of you is information on your current state, and to the right are your expectations, predictions and forecasts for the years ahead. In today’s ever accelerating pace of sprinting toward the next near-term deadline, project completion date, fire to be put out, etc. we understandably often find ourselves focusing almost entirely on what lies directly ahead of us, often crossing streets with minimal information (without looking both ways) …
For organizations to maintain successful performance, strategic planning and decision-making simply cannot be done without looking at data both ways. Here are essential questions you should ask when analyzing data for insights:
What significant trends exist in the data that I need to be aware of and are the drivers behind those trends expected to continue into the future?
Does the data reflect the investments, changes, and results we planned for in previous years? (did we do what we said we were going to do in recent years?)
NOTE: This question is often left out and can be critical to future success. Can you determine why certain strategic initiatives weren’t executed well to be able to make adjustments? Likewise, can you identify the drivers that propelled your plans to success, so you can celebrate, share and repeat them as best practices?
What have peer organizations been able to accomplish as compared to our results? What insights can we derive from others?
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What is happening right now that I need to take immediate action on?
Are there peers of mine facing the same challenges and are there opportunities to collaborate on solutions and best practices?
Am I able to translate existing information regarding “where are we” and “how did we get here” into projections on “where do we want to be?” and “how do we get there?”
NOTE: Having “looked left” and reviewed the past data as aligned with specific initiatives and peers, are your current plans taking those insights into account?
Does your budget/forecast align with the strategic plan…and, can you clearly, and graphically, define the level of investment that is being made to support your goals?
Navigating the complex environment your organization lives in can be difficult. At Forecast5, we are constantly supporting you with the data, tools and insights to help you make the right choices. If there’s an oncoming truck racing across your path, we want you to see it before anyone else does. Funny how some lessons can reinvent themselves and continue to keep us on the right path.
Tony Jerisha is the Client Services Director for Forecast5 Analytics, Inc. where he is responsible for providing clients the support, training, and product experiences they need to be successful. Prior to joining Forecast5 in 2013, Tony spent 10 years with CCH (a Wolters Kluwer business) in various leadership positions including National Retention Manager where he oversaw client relationships across the U.S. and helped the organization bring multiple technology innovations to the tax and legal markets. Tony has received a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from the University of St. Francis and his Illinois CPA certification.