In my work, I talk almost every day with business leaders about their use of data. Often they tell me they have more information than ever before - but even less time to look at it! And when they do …

Sometimes in business you will have this experience: a report, a dashboard, or a visualisation surprises you, or even shocks you. Sales have unexpectedly increased, or profits have fallen, there's a spike in customers leaving your service, or a significant change in costs. Most of the time, these are trends which change slowly. We need to watch them closely, to analyze the pattern. But then, on some days, we don't need to analyze at all: we can see at a glance how things have changed!

These sudden changes should be easy to spot with well-designed dashboards and reports, but some users are stuck with systems which don't really help. If you only have a table of numbers, neatly arranged in columns, can you quickly see new information? Not at all. So, we like charts and visualisations because they make it easy to spot trends and patterns. In fact, this is one of the reasons why visualisation tools have become so popular, especially with those business users who find themselves short of time.

Data visualisation is not enough

Charts and graphs and visualisations, without doubt, have increased the use of data in business decision-making. We have more insights to hand than ever before, in attractive formats. But the conventional approach still requires one critical input from the user: you need to know what you're looking for.

In other words, if you have a regular question - how are sales going? - you can look at your dashboard to find out. And as I said, if there's an unexpected spike, or a surprising drop, you'll see that easily. But business typically doesn't run like this, just rolling along until a sudden change. Most often, before the inflection, there will be indicators that something is about to happen. But those patterns may only occur in one division, or one region or hidden in a stack of other trends and not easily visible if you look at the whole.

Some patterns are just difficult to see in charts. A long tail of numerous small orders may be significant when aggregated, but visually difficult to compare to a small number of large orders. When the balance changes, or when trends change you can't spot them easily.

What we need is software that can do some of this glimpsing for us: software to draw our attention to numbers, patterns and insights we might overlook.

Do you know?

Lumenore have a feature called Do You Know? Using AI and machine learning, it works behind the scenes to find those glimpses of insight for you. These are not going to be surprising or shocking - at least not too often, I hope. Instead Do You Know can nudge you to take notice of numbers you might otherwise miss.

One reason that Do You Know's machine learning performs so well is simply the effect of smart algorithms working over detailed data models. But algorithms have other advantages. They are never distracted, overwhelmed or anxious; they are not excitable or hasty. They just steadily do the work of finding out what's going beneath the surface of your data.

This kind of continuity of insight helps in breaking the reactive cycle of leadership: rather than just answering to events you will find yourself more often ahead. And when significant change does occur, you will be well placed not just to respond, but to look deeper yourself, with a much more complete situational awareness your business.

This approach works for the business leaders I talk with. The big issues stand out and demand attention. There is little time for them to really dig into the data and find new patterns: they are not analysts. Their staff work hard to keep them informed, resulting mainly in more reports, more analyses and less time. What they need is a light touch, a nudge, a voice that just says Do You Know?