Data Does not Speak for Itself: You Have to Speak for It

Letting the data speak for itself can result in unrecognizable insights for many in your organization. Data needs to be interpreted to make sense.

The data will speak for itself. This is a phrase that is commonly thrown around in data analytics circles.

Often the people who say the data will speak for itself are the ones who are closest to the data, and for them, this might be true. EHS analysts, business analysts and other disciplines that focus on data collection, cleaning, preparation and analysis are closest to the data.

However, for employees of departments whose focus is not data analysis, the data can look like it is speaking Italian instead of English. This means that “letting the data speak for itself” can result in unrecognizable insights for many in your organization.

The practice of environmental, health and safety (EHS) is experiencing growing pains when it comes to analysis and data. On the positive side, more data is available for analysis and more data will ultimately help us to progress in the right direction by refining our insights. The problem is that if we use the “data will speak for itself” approach we will be left with a lot of confused people trying to understand what the data means.

That means we must “speak” for the data, help our “customers” visualize what the data means. Data visualization plays a huge role in helping turn our data analytics efforts on the back end into consumable and understandable insights for front-end users. For data to be communicated effectively, data visualizations should be truthful, functional and insightful.

As discussed in a recently published article, Data Doesn’t Speak for Itself: You Have to Speak for It, in ISHN, authors Angelo CianfroccoChuck Pettinger, and Nick Goodell explain that quality data visualizations provide a great medium for communicating insights, but not just any visualization will do. Effective data visualizations will help your organization realize the true potential of your data and drive decisions throughout your organization.

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