Analysing data

 

There is a lot of chatter these days about data. We’re used to seeing phrases like ‘big data’, ‘data collection’ and ‘data analysis’ but, unless you’re a techie, many of us remain unsure what these terms really mean in practical terms. More importantly, many businesses are completely in the dark about how they might be able to access business data, make sense of it, or use that information to drive better-informed decision making. 

Your company and your employees are constantly generating, accessing and exchanging data in the everyday course of doing business. This information could potentially help you to work smarter, identify new opportunities and stay ahead of the competition. But if we don’t know how we can get our hands on that data, and don’t know how we could make any sense of it even if it was in front of us, we will miss out on those huge potential benefits. The key business insights that data holds are therefore trapped, often located all over the place in various databases, applications and devices. There are tools available, however, that can help you access and interpret all that data without learning a computer programming language. 

Microsoft offers a cloud-based service called Azure Analysis Service (Azure AS). In simple terms, the service acts a ‘translator’ for all the bewildering raw data you have from all your various sources and turns it into a range of easily understood familiar formats. 

At the risk of getting a bit more technical this is known as a ‘semantic layer’. Semantics just refers to the systems we use to generate meaning and gain understanding from signs and symbols (including letters and numbers). So a platform like Azure AS takes information which is in a system of signs and symbols we don’t understand (the raw data from your various on-site and cloud-based sources), then applies a different ‘semantic model’ (a different system of signs and symbols) to turn it into something we do understand.

For instance, a bit of impenetrable raw data like [ex: %OrdDt] is turned into [ex: Order Date]. It’s easy to see how a tool like this opens up data so that it can be studied and interrogated using common business terms. Now the data has been translated into language we readily understand, users can begin to really explore it and create queries using much more familiar and intuitive terms. The raw data from various sources can be sent to a preferred interface such as Excel, Power BI, or SQL Server Reporting Services. This allows you to select, manipulate, and evaluate business data, as well as create custom reports in formats that are familiar to you and easily understood by your colleagues and clients. 

Using this kind of data ‘translation’ tool doesn’t need any technical expertise on your part but means you can turn all that trapped information into valuable business insights which you can show as a written report in plain English, or even in a visual representation like a graph or chart. 

For more information on setting up Microsoft Azure and other software, click here, or call 1300 501 677.