Business intelligence and actionable insights: Charting the journey to discovering real value

Bryan Hill

Cadient Group

In this article, Bryan Hill discusses the key challenges in searching for business intelligence and actionable insights and shares his thoughts on how best to overcome these issues.

Welcome to the 2012 gold rush – data gold that is. The promise of untold riches buried within the ones and zeros of our big data repositories has every analyst, brand manager and executive, organizing business intelligence expeditions to uncover nuggets of actionable insights. Key challenges in this search are knowing where to look, how to get to it, and what it looks like. Unlike gold, actionable insights aren’t always shiny or universally recognizable as a valuable thing. With the right approach and tools for the job, this expedition will provide you with the means to better assess program effectiveness, reduce operational costs, and invest wisely.

What is an actionable insight?

Before we start our journey, let’s be clear on what it is that we are seeking:

• What differentiates actionable insights from standard reporting metrics?

• What makes actionable insights so valuable is their inherent ability to both illustrate performance? Prescribe some forward action.

It may be a single data point or a mash up of metrics and data that eliminates the noise created by the volumes of information. Providing context to a key performance indicator (KPI) focuses on the signal of what really matters.

To elaborate on this a bit, let’s look at web analytics. If we see a lift in unique site visitors for our pharmaceutical brand site, MYBRAND.COM, from 1,000 to 1,100 over the course of a week, is that good or bad? What decisions or forward actions can be taken based on this data? The answer is likely “I don’t know,” which is understandable because it lacks context.


“Unlike gold, actionable insights aren’t always shiny or universally recognizable as a valuable thing.”


However, if we were to mash up that metric with comparative site metrics of competitors or industry websites, we would have a better sense of what is good versus what is bad. With access to comparable measures, we can see that had 1,100 unique visitors while COMPETITOR1.COM had 2,000 over that same time period. I now know that my chief competitor has a larger online audience, but why and what can I do about it?

We can start to answer that by looking at messaging. What is my brand saying versus my main competitor? An easy way to get a sense for this is by creating a word-cloud that visualizes predominate words and phrases on the site using font size and color to indicate volume. By doing this we see BRAND.COM messaging is largely based on the brand name and celebrity spokesperson while COMPETITOR1.COM is focused on the medical condition and therapy. We now see the disparity in the approach. How does it resonate with audiences?

Using the same word-cloud technique, we illustrate search behavior that shows audiences are using condition and therapy-based terms that matches the messaging of COMPETITOR1.COM. We now have an insight mash up that tells us how we are performing relative to the competition, reasons why, and how we may improve by aligning messaging to audience behavior and preferences.

Now that we have an idea of what we’re pursuing, let’s implement an approach to map where to look and how to get there.

Create your actionable insights map

Any journey requires a shared vision of the destination and a map to ensure you get there. Cross-discipline stakeholders should agree on defined business goals and participate in the implementation of measurement solutions.


“Cross-discipline stakeholders should agree on defined business goals…”


With these goals in mind, create an insights map (food for thought below) that illustrates the pathway to aggregation, contextualization, visualization and interpretation.

Aggregation – Identify and connect data sources critical to the ongoing performance monitoring and improvement efforts of your business.

Key sources:

• Web – web analytics, site content, registration data

• Social Media – social media outlet metrics, tonality

• Media and Advertising – impressions, campaign metrics, traffic sources

• Mobile – mobile web analytics, app metrics, SMS campaign data, QR code conversions

• Search – keywords, backlinks

Contextualization – Focus on the metrics that matter and define the interrelationships of your data to design meaningful performance models and insights mash ups.

Key elements:

• Competitive or industry benchmarks

• Brand goals or targets

• Engagement through the conversion cycle

• Influence models

Visualization – Develop concise, easily-digestible views to data that remove complexity to enable rapid transformation from numbers to knowledge.

Key elements:

• Visualize for the 140 character audience

• Charts, graphs, maps

• Tables and word clouds

• Infographics

Interpretation – Provide unified access to data that facilitates collaborative analysis and prescriptive insights that drive action

Key Elements

• Democratize data across the enterprise

• Develop repeatable patterns and perspectives for the business

• Tools to author and socialize data insights

To ensure your efforts return real business value and not fool’s gold, consider this business intelligence in creating your insights map and charting your course to reveal actionable insights.





About the author:

Bryan Hill is Chief Technology Officer at Cadient Group. Cadient Group is a leading digital healthcare marketing agency serving a diverse range of industry markets and stakeholders, including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, hospital / healthcare systems, institutions and associations.

In his position, Bryan is the architect of the agency’s range of digital solutions and leader of Cadient’s Global Technologies organization, a passionate team of solution architects, developers, and quality engineers delivering innovative solutions in web, mobile and social. Bryan has nearly 20 years of leadership experience and expertise in multiple technical areas including software development, data management and IT consulting. In his nine years at Cadient Group, Bryan’s primary responsibilities have been focused on growing a global digital production operation, driving technical innovation, developing digital solution strategies and ensuring the quality delivery of Cadient’s interactive healthcare offerings.

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