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what is insight

Jacques Cousteau was a French naval explorer who made documentaries about all things ‘sea’.  Although I’ve not watched a lot of his work, the few snippets I did made me realise just how amazing life is in the sea. And, crucially, how little we still know about it. So what’s Jacques got to do with insight you might ask? Well, in my humble opinion quite a bit actually. So what is insight?

Everyone with a background in data and of course insight will have their own take or opinion. A lot of people think getting their teeth sunk into data as being more of a mining operation. I see as more of an underwater exploration exercise. And that’s the link.

I look at data as being a deep sea or ocean. On the surface you’ve got some really quick insights from information that stands out immediately. For example, you might have 2 or 3 standout customers who always order from you every months. Over time you become accustomed to seeing their name on your invoice report.

To go down a level or depth you need to get your snorkel on. Here’s where you want to start finding some trends or patterns but need something to help you look deeper, in this example a snorkel but in the data world this could be a pivot table created in Excel which shows you a years worth of invoices and dates showing peaks and troughs of sales – or seasonality of your business.

You’ll need to get your scuba gear on as you want to go a bit deeper. You know your best customer(s), you know the seasonality of your business, but you want to know how much of the market you’ve penetrated. You’re going to need to blend some external information, like total size of market, with information on your existing base to work out market share. 

You get the point.

As you delve deeper into the sea everything gets darker. However, the key is, like naval exploration, to use equipment or tools to make your job easier. Tools in the insight world include business intelligence applications, data warehouses and, not as easy as you think, having a nice, clean dataset.

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