Picture the last time you had a great meal. Maybe it was a five-star restaurant or simply one of your most talented family members. Still, that meal probably had three key elements that made it so memorable: great ingredients, quality tools, and epic presentation. Add in a recipe, and you have everything you need to recreate your own equally impressive dishes.

As it turns out, companies can dish out data insights with the same elements as that memorable meal you just imagined. Let’s explore how companies can leverage data analytics to serve up mouthwatering insights that keep customers coming back for more.

Woman chef cooker preparing a recipe

First: The Ingredients

Your data analytics recipe is only as good as what you put into it. You only want the freshest, most quality data you can get to go into your data recipe, and there are three key places to get it.

Visit your own data garden

There is nothing so great as a sun-warmed piece of fruit picked right out of your own garden at peak freshness. Likewise, data a company has captured itself—otherwise known as “first-party data”— and harvested at just the right time is one of the best ways to supply a data recipe.

First-party data is a valuable resource for companies, coming from:

  • offline sources like sales calls and in-person events, onboarded into the digital realm
  • direct online sources like customer surveys or form fills
  • indirect online sources such a website activity or search queries

It offers a direct view into existing and potential customers with better control over privacy and compliance. And just like produce from a garden, a company knows exactly where it came from and what went into it.

“Barter” mutually beneficial ingredients

Sometimes your garden doesn’t produce the way you want, or you didn’t plant something you now need for a recipe. When you peek over to your neighbor’s yard, you see the exact ingredient you need. You walk over and offer some things from your garden and get the produce you need in return.

Second-party data is someone else’s first-party data. A company might need a particular type of data that it hasn’t captured, so it “barters” with another source to leverage that source’s first-party data.

Second-party data offers your company insights that can fill in gaps but still offers a measure of trust and “localness,” i.e., data curated and controlled.

Visit the supermarket

Sometimes neither you nor your neighbors have the ingredients you need. Sometimes, that ingredient is out of season or comes from a faraway environment. Now, you need to visit the supermarket to finish your ingredients list.

The supermarket is a bit like third-party data. The data, just like the food, comes from another source, and you can’t always verify exactly where or how. You pay for the data just like the food and can get just about anything you want.

The trade is that sometimes the data is lower quality than what the company can capture itself. Sometimes, it’s not exactly the right type of data. However, it fills important gaps and, with some testing, can finally finish the recipe.

Second: The cookware

Great tools make recipes come together with greater ease. In data, these tools include algorithms to help “cook” data to bring it into a form that humans can digest. These algorithms process data and bring clear insight into focus.

Tools also include software designed for a variety of purposes. Some software makes it easy to tweak analytics just like you’d adjust the temperature on an oven or adjust a timer. Others make visualization easier.

Some common data analytics tools include:

  • Excel
  • Power BI
  • Artificial Intelligence tools
  • Python-based tools

And many others. The tools companies use depend a lot on their preferred style of cooking with data and the goals they have.

Sautéed vegetables in preparation

Third: The recipe

Once you have all your data ingredients in place, you’re ready to follow the recipe to create the finished product. Recipes include data pipelines and algorithms that help make sense of data from multiple sources.

With a recipe, companies can put data on the table in a consumable form. In the beginning, companies may stick to a strict pipeline created for them by an in-house team or SaaS service, but soon, companies will be able to tweak the process on the fly for their needs.

Finally: The presentation

Once a company has created its meal, the presentation is the final step. Data analytics makes it easier for humans to consume the insights that data provides. Think of it like this.

You can buy a hot dog from any stand on the corner, but would you go out of your way to visit that stand again? Small chance. Would you take a first date to that hot dog stand? Smaller chance. Would you pay top dollar for that hot dog and go out of your way to alter your behavior to visit the stand regularly? Not a chance.

The restaurants draw you in have great presentation. There’s even a verb for it: to “plate” food. Data should be presented in the same way. Data analytics brings out the elements of the insight that are important and tells the story. You can toss numbers out and hope for the best, or you can “plate” the data and showcase the story.

Three chefs cookers with their culinary creations

Mastering Data from Ingredients to Plate

Your data can be just as exciting, comforting, and life-giving as a great dish of food can be. Once you have the ingredients you need, good tools that help you reach your goals, and the right presentation, you’ll be able to use data to create something great. It’s time to think like a chef does with his or her prize recipes—and offer your company the type of five-star insights that delight and keep people coming back for more.

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