I had the opportunity this week to review data from projects conducted over the past three years. The first thing that I noticed was how familiar it all was. Despite being well over a year divorced from some of the data, the intricacies of the project came rushing back to me (Oh, this program had lower than average purchase intents because many of the men being interviewed didn’t make that household purchasing decision. Or, this product saw exceptional recommendation numbers due to its charity sponsorship).
The Interesting Part
The really interesting part, though, was watching all those little details disappear as I condensed the responses into a single data set. I was using the data to outline topics for PortMA’s upcoming white paper series. The shift from data being about a product to being data about an industry was startling. It was almost an oxymoron. The details that were valuable initially actually created extra value because of what happened when they were eliminated in the broader review.
With years worth of data all compiled into a single spreadsheet, I had to spend some time familiarizing myself with it. I began to notice trends emerging between venues, industries, and various consumer segments. But just mapping trends wasn’t enough. I needed data that really mattered.
Objects May Appear Closer Than They Are
Fortunately, those project details I kept remembering helped me to find topics that would be both informative and easily leveraged into actionable plans. It was actually simple to find significant differences when multiple projects in the same industry had similar idiosyncrasies. I hadn’t realized until that point that they weren’t really idiosyncrasies at all. They were industry-specific consumer trends.
It all seemed so obvious looking back, but I guess with data it’s no different than many other things. By looking back, I was able to have more clarity about where I was going. That must be why they put rear view mirrors on our cars!
Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/antmo/3197139011/