Data guided, not data driven

I like data same as the next guy. But I don’t like pronouncements like the one I heard at an industry event last year: “If it isn’t data, it doesn’t exist.”

Let’s get ahold of ourselves. Sure, data gives grounding. It’s a starting point, and it’s even a GPS. But there’s much more to any decision.

It used to be taboo to say that around the business intelligence industry. Almost 10 years ago, I repeated to a data warehouse expert what I had heard from a renegade inventor, that business users knew their own data. “No!” the expert protested. But things have changed. (See “BI consolidation first hand,” 2007.)

Just the other day, I was encouraged by the response from Qlik business analytics strategist James Richardson responded to my mention of “…it doesn’t exist”:

It’s not all data driven or gut feel. Obviously, the right path is somewhere in the middle, where the path is moderated through the other. It’s a hybrid of heuristic and algorithmic. That’s where we have to end up. … I don’t think we can write people out of the decision making just yet.

I remember as child in UK, we studied Dickens. There’s a teacher in Hard Times, Gradgrind. It was “facts, facts, and only facts” for him. That’s what he taught the kids in that tough, modern Victorian world.

That “tough, modern Victorian world”! Has Gradgrind’s day come and gone? It looks to me like Qlik thinks it’s at least fading away and that business is ready for a wiser BI.

James Richardson again:

For me the value is not just in being data driven. It’s allowing people to have the heuristic, the rules of thumb, the experiential learning they bring to their lives. That’s how we learn. That’s how we make decisions as humans. Then tempering that with data.

That sounds to me like a truly intelligent use of data.

The data industry thrives on conversation. Please submit a comment.

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