In the last two weeks, I’ve been asked this question by more than 5 different business leaders…

If your team could get their hands on our data, do you think they could show us insights we can’t yet see?

I love it when we get asked this question.

Of course, a primary reason is that I know it opens the door for our data team to dive into something they love doing — next-level analysis and insight elevation. But more so, I love this question because it tells me that the business world is shifting. Questions like these reinforce that…

All leaders — beyond just leaders of data and tech — are ready to do more with data

Curiosity is piquing, as leaders know there’s more that can be unearthed, elevated and identified

Businesses are ready to ACT… to measure what they can’t see today instead of settling and measuring what feels easy

And, because without necessarily realizing it, what these leaders are really asking is for their dark data to be elevated

Dark data is defined as information that organizations collect, store, and process, but information that they typically fail to use for other purposes such as analysis, monetization, correlation and causation, and business activities (more on that here). And it’s more common than you might think. According to a 2022 report from the Enterprise Strategy Group, nearly half of all data can be considered “dark.”

Go from dark data to illuminate by grabbing tips from our most recent LIVE

So when asked this question, what it really signifies is a leader who is ready to go beyond just data collection and storage. It signifies that the leader is ready to go from dark to illuminated.

But how do you begin the process of elevating your dark data? Where should you begin? Let’s dive in.

Use Case identified

Amidst the sea of big data overwhelm — from multiple sources to quality issues to integration woes — a big reason dark data exists is simply because it can be hard for organizations to decide where to start. Do they start org-wide to elevate dark data? Within a department? Within a system? Across systems that are integrated? The sheer number of questions can be enough to halt organizations before they begin.

That’s why we try to simplify it.

When we are asked the question above, it always follows with a question on our end…

Absolutely, we can get our hands on your data. What sources of data do you want us to examine?

We ask this because instead of boiling the ocean, we encourage leaders to pinpoint the top use case around which they need to elevate new data insight. A use case that can be examined immediately, with little friction, and with no dependencies on how much or little data they have. Things like… deep diving into software lifecycle velocity, marketing campaign performance, product release quality, customer service experience, employee retention, etc. By focusing on one use case, big data shifts from herculean to manageable. What’s more, insights can be derived and elevated within days, not months or years.

How would you answer that question? What’s the one use case you want deep-dive examination into? For example, do you want to unearth insight to better understand…

How your go-to-market strategy is performing

The efficiency — or lack thereof — in your software factory

How included and psychologically safe your employees feel

Variables that impact customer renewals

How your operations are plagued by defects, redundancies and bottlenecks

Chief factors resulting in employee burnout and quitting

What your customers say about you when you are “not in the room”

Once you identify the focus area upon which you want to dive deeper, now comes the real fun… it’s time to uncover newfound insights quickly.


An Insights Win

One of the main reasons why dark data remains in organizations is because teams get really good at — and comfortable with — measuring what they’ve always measured.

So… once you’ve identified the use case you want to understand better, it’s time to inject creativity into the process of elevating new insight so as to make sure you don’t remain in the comfort zone of how you’ve always measured.

For example, a few questions that you might want to dive into include:

  • When was the last time we modernized our approach to KPI-ing? Have we added any new KPIs to this use case area in the last month? The last year?
  • How do we define success today around this focus area (e.g. development velocity, lead conversion, employee retention, NPS, etc.)? What are some new phrases/words that come to mind when thinking about how to expand the definition of success?
  • What questions and/or hypotheses do we have about this focus area that we want to dive into further (e.g. “we think our go-to-market strategy might have a hole in it particularly with one of our core personas,” “we believe employees in these roles are at higher risk of burnout,” “we wonder if our software team could be more efficient”)
  • What are we NOT measuring that we should?

With these questions raised, suddenly your use case examination has more texture and nuance. New questions open the door to new ways to harness the data. And by asking new things of your data, you can elevate insights that previously lay dormant.

As a new approach to analysis commences, focus on elevating insights fast so that your team can get a quick data win. Use this momentum to then identify the next use case that would be helpful to direct attention towards. And, most importantly, act against the immediate insights that you just elevated to put data to work for you.


Ready to have your first dark data illumination win? Our Data team recently shared tips and tricks for how you can take action and start unearthing new insight; click here to dive in.