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Those Who Look Are Not Lost
As a kid, I had an irrational fear of quicksand
It terrified me to think that I could be exploring and suddenly find myself waist deep in a quagmire of unmanageable outcomes. I remember the thoughts of struggling through the murkiness without a limb, rope, or lifeline flung to me by a nearby friend. This, of course, was a perception created by my consumption of all manners of TV shows, books, and movies during the 80s. They were misconceptions shaped by popular opinion about how things would play out if we found ourselves pursuing a course of action.
Fast forward four decades later and many still have irrational fears about quicksand, dragons, and various measures of obscurity. While time has shaped who I am and what I believe, it has held constant its ability to obscure what is pertinent and true.
Data Can Be Scary
Like quicksand, many have an irrational fear of data. Throw out the term “Big Data”, and the end users of reporting and analytic tools feel their hearts palpitate and the confusion grow. When you have mountains of data and a single request, the only thing you want is to know is if you’re telling your client the right information.
At NewWave, our dedication to using the exact right tool for the job enables us to make sure the response to that statement is an emphatic, “It’s 100% right.” Our client’s trust in the work we do has put us on the forefront of many first-time innovations that help us solve for the greater good.
Our client’s trust in the work we do has put us on the forefront of many first-time innovations that help us solve for the greater good.
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in quite a few different demos for analytics tools, so I am no stranger to the conversation. Recently, NewWave held an educational training session on a data analysis tool I was very aware of: Looker. I had previously done my homework and researched use cases that made sense to my day-to-day role as a manager at NewWave.
What made this Looker demo different? Rather than the occasional, “Oh, that’s nice,” there was an overwhelming feeling of “How in the world can I help get this implemented as a manager on another fantastically important program inside of CMS?”
“Are you sure that’s right? That can’t be right, can it?” is a very common response when the data doesn’t match your perception. It’s a human response. A type of cognitive dissonance when what we feel is right and that the data behind it all must be right. Trusting the data while questioning the methodology is a very real and necessary part of data analysis.
How does Looker help solve the accountability problem? By providing an intuitive interface that allows users to not only see the results of their request, but also shows the user exactly how that it got to those results through SQL. The fact that Looker drastically reduces the methodology to validate data is tremendous. This serves a few purposes:
- As a senior analyst, I likely have the technical acumen to parse the SQL myself to see if the results match what I can run via direct SQL. Maybe I’ve written an ad hoc query and I need to validate my results… Looker not only validates, but it also tells me how it would solve the problem.
- As a junior analyst, I may need validation and a method to help train me on the data model without having to ask someone else or spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to figure something out. Looker guides me through that learning process.
- As a manager, I can provide that SQL to an analyst should they want to know how I arrived at my data request.
The ability to have multiple levels of quality assurance performed on a report, whether it is internal or external, can make or break pertinent decisions on how to move forward. Looker as a training and quality assurance tool may not be its primary function, but it should not go unnoticed as a significant “Pro” in the “Pro/Con” list.
If your complex data needs require you to have a lengthy process around a simple request, it’s time to rethink how you analyze data. There’s so much more to Looker, and NewWave is already using every bit of its power to help our clients create meaningful data drilldowns.