Context is king, especially when it comes to data. And the most important processor you have when it comes to understanding data and context, is still the human brain.
Big data, small data, Excel data, dashboard data, ad hoc reports, analytics, and even notes on a napkin. All of these need that same important piece to make them relevant: Context.
When I first started at Dundas, like any good employee, I wanted to make some quick changes and get a few quick wins. So I put in some best practices when it came to signing people up on our website.
This is what our marketing dashboard looked like – I made the adjustments in January.
Come February 1st I was sure that it was time to pack my bags, make sure my LinkedIn profile was updated and contact a bunch of head hunters, right? Our CEO is going to look at this and discover that the new marketing guy he hired has successfully cut his leads by 50% in just one short month.
Maybe not. Let’s provide some context first. That little bubble in January 2013 is called an annotation, and it's used to document any changes that were made in that time. Here is what that annotation says:
“A Captcha was added to the site to stop fake accounts from being generated and added to CRM as Leads. The leads count prior to February is inaccurate”
It turned out that bots were coming to our site and registering accounts (for reasons I do not know) and generating roughly 1000 fake accounts a month. My job was saved and the irony crept in. The ironic thing about this whole anecdote is that the human brain beat out computers twice. The first was done by adding a Captcha and using it to identify a real person, the second was through adding context to a number that would have had me sifting through the classifieds (for younger readers, classifieds used to be job postings in a newspaper….which was like a printed version of the internet).
In closing, although Watson won Jeopardy and Siri is still making my dinner reservations, when it comes to the data that you're using to make business decisions, make sure to provide context in order to help your brain understand it.
It’s the last beacon of hope before Skynet becomes aware and Brainiac gets the best of Superman.