Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.
It’s common to feel the same way about data. While organizations today collect multitudes of data, many believe that they aren’t able to act effectively on it. In fact, only 31% of organizations describe themselves as being data-driven, despite having invested in big data. Data, data everywhere, but not a drop to act on.
Actionable insights are the remedy to this epidemic of unusable data. Instead of collecting data solely for the sake of having it, organizations need to create connections between data and their business goals. “Why is this data important? What do we need to do now?” When data is used correctly, it answers these questions, drives action, and unlocks business value.
Defining an actionable insight
Actionable insight is information that provides value to your business. It may answer a question, show you how to achieve the results that you want, or reveal an opportunity that you didn’t realize existed. Identifying actionable insights requires going beyond data correlation to uncover the causes behind trends. The key is in the name: you must be able to take action on the data.
Data that isn’t actionable might be noisy, unprocessed, mis-leading or just irrelevant to your business. In order to achieve insights, that data needs to be analyzed and conclusions need to be drawn. But not all conclusions are drawn equally…
The six attributes of actionable insights
How do you know if your insight is actionable, or just information? Insights that are actually helpful share six key features:
These indicators tell you if your analysis is providing you with business value. If your customer insights analytics platform doesn’t offer these attributes, you won’t be able to take action. Rather than providing value, your data will be locked away.
Does this information help your business achieve your key goals? Does it align with your North Star Metric? If you take action on it, will it further your goals as a business? You may uncover information that is “actionable”, but if it’s not relevant to your business, it’s not helpful. It’s just noise.
Do you have relevant supporting data to help you understand what this insight means to your business? For example, what does it mean to your business if you have 50,000 visits to your homepage? Some businesses would consider that a huge spike and they’d need to figure out where the traffic comes from. Other businesses would consider that a huge drop in volume - and they’d need to dig into that too. Context helps you understand how to think about your data.
Does the right person have the right information at the right time? Handing off a report detailing customers perceptions of your pricing model to the engineering team will not deliver actionable insights, because they can’t influence pricing. Getting insights to the relevant team is a critical part of creating actionable insights. An analytics platform that generates insights, but doesn’t provide an easy way to share them with stakeholders doesn’t provide relevance.
Do you understand why this trend has occurred? What specific inputs caused this anomaly to occur? Unless you understand the why behind the insight, you won’t be able to act on it and get the results you expect. For example, if you’ve seen a noticeable increase in conversions, but don’t know what changed to cause the improvement, you won’t be able to replicate the success. An actionable insight should tell you the specific levers you’ll need to pull to get results (ie. continue to focus advertising on companies with > 100 employees).
Is this new information to you? Some data isn’t that insightful, even if you can act on it. For example, you’ll probably already be aware that fast responses improve customer satisfaction with your service team. This isn’t an actionable insight. However, if your data shows that customers who reported a long-standing bug are 5x more likely to churn, that’s new information that is important to act on.
Is the insight clearly communicated in a way that the relevant stakeholders understand it? Data visualization can play a big part in making an insight actionable. Not only does it make the information digestible, but it also makes it memorable. Communicating data effectively can drive urgency and action.
Understanding actionable insights
Why is it important to know if your data is actionable? Because many analytics platforms use “actionable insights” as a buzzword, but don’t deliver on their promises. Being able to inquire about the six attributes above helps you choose an analytics partner that delivers value to your business.
Can they filter out noise that isn’t relevant to your business? Do they offer integrations that provide more context about the data? Can stakeholders access the data when needed? Does their analysis move beyond correlation to causation? Finally, is their platform easy to use and are the insights easy to understand?
Knowing what makes up an actionable insight can help you spot the imposters and encourage you to analyze your data more thoroughly. Finding those gems of insight can really move the needle on your business goals.