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The Data Savvy Business User

I recently came across an interesting article on GigaOm entitled “The six data-savvy work personas.” The post examines the research project done by Dow Jones’ Factiva, in which business user behavior is broken down into six personas – each of which gathers, shares, and collaborates with data in a different way. These personas are:

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  • The Compass uses information gathering and research to help guide big-picture strategic decisions
  • The Connector lives to pull together a broad range of information to make new connections or enhance existing ones
  • The Captain needs information quickly for near-term, tactical decisions
  • The Miner wants targeted information to stay on top of their industry
  • The Scout is the one often tasked with finding the information for Captains, Compasses and other superiors
  • The InfoPro is the next generation corporate librarian tasked with identifying and retrieving information

The Human Element in Big Data

One of the things about this article that stands out to me is the way information was being described and consumed. For the most part, it shows that this increasing volume of unstructured information is being organized and analyzed by people (or at least by the personas listed) with very little emphasis placed on technology. Perhaps this reliance on human interaction to make these connections shows that most companies are still a far way from being able to leverage big data technology (which would help to gather and organize in this unstructured information).

How Effectively is Data Being Used?

Another thing that struck me as I read this article, it does a good job of breaking down the types of users of information, but it doesn’t examine how – or how effectively – that information is being used. In other words, what business problems are different personas solving through the use of data?

We’ve begun to explore question in our ongoing survey “How Effectively are Companies Using Business Data?” In it we identify common challenges within several functional units, and try to determine how well their current business intelligence programs help them solve these challenges.  For instance, in our preliminary findings we discovered that business users had inadequate BI in several key areas including:

  • Finance executives had inadequate BI to help them understand the relationship between operational performance and financial results
  • Operations executives needed better BI to help them monitor and manage costs
  • Sales executives struggled to optimize sales and distribution channels with existing BI, and
  • Marketing executives had inadequate BI to help them acquire and retain customers

As mentioned earlier, these findings are preliminary, and we welcome participation in our survey to help create a more complete picture of the use of information.

Putting Together Who and How

While Factiva’s research does a great job of examining the types of users of information, it’s equally important for us to drill down further into how that information is used. Answering both of these questions can help BI teams to more proactively serve the needs of their business users.

By Adrian Alleyne, Director of Market Research

© DecisionPath Consulting, 2011


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