Gartner thought leaders have many “zingers” and a lot of smart predictions. One that has stuck with my over the years is the notion that when data moves into excel it goes “from fact to opinion”. This is an example of perpetuating information anarchy (the lowest level of analytics maturity).
Information anarchy is a state of data disorder due to the nonrecognition of a source of truth.
This notion of moving from fact to opinion is pretty important. I’ve seen several large organizations spend substantial amounts of money debating who’s data opinions were the right opinions. Who’s excel files were the “right” numbers. There are many reasons for this costly behavior. Anarchy is a political construct. Data has politics. When varying opinions are perpetuated due to political agendas and core systems and processes are ignored to drive that agenda you get disorder.
So what does this have to do with data visualization?
I find it particularly interesting that analytics tool providers like Domo, Tableau and Power BI have maintained a major foothold by latching on to these anarchistic tendencies in companies. It is now easier than ever to make opinions pretty. Snap your excel data into a dataviz tool and you have lipstick on the pig. Herein lies a downside to these tools. They are perpetuating a problem in an organization that needs to be solved with better data processes and people to govern the data and processes in a way that eliminates wasted money on debating numbers.
What’s the most important problem to solve in this business situation? Faster time to insight? Better reporting? One place for information?
Connecting to the right information? Determining what is the right information? Or something else?
As business becomes decentralized, the strategic core must continue to push a required loyalty (fealty) to the central business information assets. Decentralized operations can quickly breed more information anarchy if left unchecked. The business must ensure a governed information platform exists and can be accessed in an agile manner to meet the demand for data and control opinions stemming from excel marts and other suspect sources.
A hybrid architecture that allows for multiple types of data to be integrated and analyzed is the primary path the market is moving towards. Where information anarchy persists is in the world of un governed dataviz. Don’t be a data anarchist. Pledge your loyalty to a governed platform that can stave off opinions and deliver facts from trusted and controlled sources of data.