Surviving 5 deadly traps consuming data
The following is a list of funny names for common problems people face when it comes to consume data, these days depending on the company time in business, maturity level of your DW and other factors becomes easy to make mistakes, this list is intended to help both data consumers and those creating reports and dashboards.
Wrong tool for the job: These days the data visualization technologies allow people to obtain the underlying data behind a dashboard very easily, however, “with a big power comes a big responsibility” which translates to read the documentation of the data and really understand the data structure available as many times we can see pre-aggregated data on different level of details that can easily be confused to the wrong granularity leading to huge over counts and potentially taking the wrong business decisions.
The labyrinth of data: Sometimes in companies where data transparency for all employees is a rule, it’s very easy to fall under a labyrinth of reports available due to a lack of control over connecting the right audience to each reporting object, when this happens we can see cases from directors frustrated using very granular data laser focused on a specific aspect of the business or analysts trying to answer questions using pre-aggregated high level dashboards.
TIP: When architecting a reporting platform always keep in mind the different kinds of audiences and the user experience by answering the “simple” question of “how is that my users will find the report they need?” of course, there is much more to add to this than just managing data access, data governance plays a big role here but there is a big price to pay by neglecting on the organization of data and items available.
Zombie reports: In companies where the DW has been in place for many years, often times there is a chance to find a report that is obsolete, as a data consumer always make sure you are accessing a report that is being maintained.
Quicksand of reports: This one is similar to the pervious item but is mostly related to data flow defect, if you as a data consumer find an outdated report, it helps a lot if you report this to the team maintaining your reporting platform as sometimes they could be overlooking this specific item and at the end this diminish trust on data, good housekeeping is always more effective when the entire company participates on it.
Mirage of assumptions: Some times as data consumers we tend to assume the meaning of data based on labels rather than going first over the documentation available, when you are an experienced user within the company this may not be a big problem, however, data governance and definitions change over time. Ignoring documentation about old reports may be dangerous for business.
TIP: Whenever you work with a report for first time, always look for documentation and if you ever find the report you are trying to use is outdated, let the team handling reporting duties to know about it, better safe than sorry.