Alexander Skorka on his Data Visualization Workshop with ESOMAR and Advice for Making Data-Empowered Decisions
ESOMAR, an organization for the global data, research, and insights community, is organizing its annual Masterclass series – this year, virtually. ESOMAR’s Virtual Academy masterclasses will be led by seasoned experts, including our very own Chief Product Officer at Dapresy, Alexander Skorka. With his Data Visualization workshop just around the corner, we wanted to hear what participants can expect, but also take the opportunity to pick his brain on topics like data-driven decision making, industry hardships, and more.
- 1. You’ve developed quite the expertise for data visualization with your decades of work in the MR industry. What would you say are the most frequent mistakes market researchers make when it comes to visualizing data?
Market researchers love data and they are great at collecting, analyzing, and visualizing it. This is and always has been their expertise and passion. However, the market research industry has been undergoing constant change for some years now. On the one hand, technology is becoming increasingly important. It’s all about efficiency and, therefore, the automation of entire process chains. On the other hand, the type of client is changing. Previously, the main contact person for market research agencies was an experienced market researcher. Now, the point of contact is commonly a businessperson, often with little to no experience in handling data and analyses. To add to this mix – the demand for self-service opportunities is growing. More and more, decision-makers need data at the moment of decision and cannot wait for someone to provide them with the appropriate analysis.
These and other trends call for a rethink. In the past, thinking was primarily focused on data and visualizing it. Nowadays “design thinking”, which focuses on the user of the data, is required. To better understand design thinking, picture a classic map of a road. It contains all conceivable information about an entire region. But do you really need all this information to reach your next destination? Don’t you just want to know whether you have to turn left or right at the next intersection? This is “Design Thinking” – considering what your user needs from the data visualization. You have to examine in detail the key activities, challenges, and management tasks of the target group for which the visualization is intended. Good visualization does only one thing – it gets to the point and makes it clear to the viewer what needs to be done, no more and no less!
- 2. Data visualization empowers teams to make data-driven decisions, which is among the top advice offered to businesses. What’s one challenge you’ve seen with clients adopting a more data-driven approach? What advice do you give them?
First of all, I prefer the term “data-empowered decisions”. Even though we are seeing an increasing trend of decision automation, we should not let ourselves be driven by data when making decisions, instead, we should seek its support
That being said, when it comes to “data-empowered decision making”, there are two crucial aspects:
1) Businesses should take small steps rather than make too many changes at once. Time and again, I find that companies look to adopt an innovation too early. For example, predictive analytics is discussed and demanded, yet the company’s reporting is lacking crucial points, as is its level of automation. For that reason, I recommend to first take a close look at the company’s level of analytical maturity and then build on that to further develop data-empowered decision-making.
2) Another challenge is the misconception that technology alone is needed to implement data-empowered decision-making. We should not underestimate the effort required. The right technology is certainly important – but what counts is the added value achieved. Only if the decisions made improve does the implementation of data-empowered decision-making make sense. Therefore, it is always necessary to measure the success of the new decision- making process. At the same time, businesses should continuously invest in developing the required expertise.
- 3. As someone who has been in this industry through hardships numerous times before, what additional advice would you give insights professionals?
My advice is to be open to new things, as you have been for the past decades. Be it to emerging new technologies, new data to be used, or topics such as how artificial intelligence must be integrated. Of course, the market research industry will continue to change, and many previous tasks will likely be eliminated. But we can look forward to just as many, if not more, exciting tasks. In particular, improving data embedding in all decision-making processes will increasingly occupy and demand a lot from us. To start, we must understand customer challenges, then ensure that data quality is adequate for decision-making, then develop focused stories, and ultimately make sure that appropriate actions are implemented. And all this needs to be automated “just in time” – in other words, at the moment when the corresponding decision must be made and implemented.
- 4. You are leading a live masterclass as a part of ESOMAR’s Virtual Academy entitled “Interactive Data Visualisation: Creating impact by the use of dashboards”. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
First of all, I feel very honored to lead this masterclass. ESOMAR conferences and learning programs have always been among the best the industry has to offer, and I am happy to be part of it. Due to recent events, the Summer Academy is taking place online for the first time. This has, of course, influenced the content and we are all looking forward to the premiere of this new format.
When we look at the topic of “Interactive Data Visualization”, one aspect is particularly important to me. I consider the way market research customers are “confronted” with data and analyses to be the most important touchpoint in the market research industry. It must be professionally managed.
In recent years, dashboard solutions are increasingly used for this purpose and classic PowerPoint presentations are on the retreat. However, there is often a lack of know-how on how to use these new technologies optimally. We must honestly ask ourselves if we are gaining better insights with the help of interactive data visualization. Is the data used more intensively, and are we actually saving money? Is presentation the better choice, after all?
As always, the answer to these questions is simple: it depends. Unfortunately, we often “copy-paste” our approach to designing PowerPoint presentations to this new technology, not harnessing its capabilities. Why? It’s simple: The challenge of a dashboard application is that the dashboard user suddenly digs into the data without your guidance. No one is there to answer questions or provide assistance. Additionally, dashboard applications provide access to far more details and facts than a presentation or classic PowerPoint report could. The danger of getting lost in data and misinterpreting results increases.
It is, therefore, important to know the possibilities offered by new technologies and tailor them specifically to whoever will be using the dashboard. It is, also, important to know the different basic strategies for developing dashboard applications and to understand which strategy works best for each target group and market research topic. In addition, how stories are told is changing as a dashboard user can decide with just a few clicks how the story continues.
This masterclass is dedicated precisely to this topic. I want to give the participants the appropriate tools to succeed in what counts: The successful transformation of “data” into “information”, then “insights”, and finally into “impact”!