Simpler and Faster is Better

Simple and Faster is Better

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to attend a session at ASAE's Annual Meeting entitled "No Analyst, No Problem!" presented by Bailey Kasten and Meagan Roloff. Their session was essentially about creating data visualizations on a shoestring budget. They presented several "case studies" of how they took relatively complex data and created very easy-to-consume visualizations and infographics.

In the presentation, they raised two points that I think are critical for all data managers: Use the simplest tools you have at your disposal, and process and communicate information as quickly as possible (I'm paraphrasing).

Simple tools — Several of the visualizations they presented were created using Excel. Excel is a powerful tool that pretty much all of us have access to. You don't need a super-powered business intelligence tool (e.g., Tableau or Power BI) to make some pretty usable and nice-looking charts.

Communicate quickly — They pointed out that, when gathering survey information, there can be a big time lag between when the data is collected and when it's reported back out. So they suggested grabbing snippets of data and communicating those snippets more quickly, rather than trying to analyze all of the data and reporting it all out at once. (Again, I'm paraphrasing; not sure they said "snippets"!).

What I love about both of these points is that the focus is on outputs(charts, reporting survey data) rather than inputs (using fancy software, crunching ALL the data before reporting out).

The simple fact is while it may be fun to use powerful tools and it may feel good to spend weeks analyzing data to make sure it's perfect, what we're looking for is actionable information. We want useful output; it doesn't matter how we get there.

Faster and simpler really is better.

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