Customer Insights – Appropriate Tools

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With the vast amounts of data available for capturing and analysis, there are many software tools available to process and store the raw information. Clearly, software tools are developed to perform specific functions. However, they are not always used appropriately! In that tools that are familiar people are used, rather than the tool that best suits the purpose. Frequently, spreadsheets are used to perform database functions, when they are not really designed to perform database functions, due to the fact that people are familiar and comfortable with using spreadsheets. Tools should be used for their intended purpose in order to perform tasks efficiently and effectively.

 

Spreadsheets
These are developed primarily for calculations and to visually display your data and as such should be used to analyze information. Aim to use reference cells for information that will be updated rather than enter fixed data in numerous cells that will change using a separate sheet for data that is subject to change as a reference sheet. So that data is just updated in one place and the effects automatically calculated in the referencing cells. Spreadsheets are frequently used to perform database functions due to familiarity with the tool.Hhowever, once the data set becomes large, the spreadsheet functions cannot perform effectively in the management of the data and provide the information that may be required by the user, such as running queries and producing reports based on specific information.

 

Databases
These packages are designed to store and summarize data, both numerical and text information. Information is stored in an easy to access format, using unique identification for information in linked tables, with each table storing different chunks of information. These tables are connected by key fields to enable sorting and matching of information. The unique keys ensure that data is not duplicated, and the linkage of tables. Their structure enables easy querying of information to find relationships between tables and the information stored in them. There are limited in that the information needs to be of the same format to enable comparison between the data, different formats, spelling etc will not be matched by the software. Databases are designed to store and report information based on specific requests and to prevent duplicate records from being recorded. They do require management and to be well designed in their structure, so that efficient management of information is provided. Go straight to http://www.smartinsights.com/goal-setting-evaluation/web-analytics-strategy/analytics-customer-insight-tools/ for more details.

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Geographic
These packages are useful to understand the location of customers and plan events to maximize audiences. Many allow you to generate a distance zone from an event and inform you of how many customers are in the catchment area. In addition, many show with various graphics the concentration of customers geographically, with many providing basic information on general information on population demographics of the area, to see how your customers compare to these and provide further insight into your customer base. These software tools are more to provide further insight for analysis or to target events for maximum impact rather than for analysis purposes, but can provide a different perspective for analysis.

 

Mathematical
These packages have been developed to perform purely for statistical purposes to analyze numerical data and to displays results to the user. In general these packages require specialized skills to use and understand/interpret the results given. Many require programming and training is required to use them. However, the results provided can provide interesting insights in company data, once the results have been interpreted and put into a business context and displayed in an easy to understand format, with the precise mechanics of how the results are arrived at, being simplified to the audience. Many provide various graphical presentation formats for the results, which can be useful in conveying results to an audience. Careful consideration should be given to the selection of mathematical software, with the data and analytic requirements being carefully defined before selecting the required software.

 

Summary
Individual tools have their own merits and strengthens and should be used appropriately rather than avoided as they have not been used before and their key usage points not understood. And tools that are widely used should be employed for the functions they were developed, rather than a one-solution-fits-all as users are familiar with the tool and can make do. In using the appropriate tools for the appropriate analysis, time is saved and mistakes are reduced. Using the appropriate tools is important to get correct results efficiently and effectively, tools are developed for specific functions to be performed and should be used based on this. Training may be required for specific tools, that are highly specialized, and results from these tools should be presented to an audience that does not confuse and generate more questions than are answered.