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The Importance Of Action

Jesse Seymour has relaunched his blog and started with a controversial statement:

There is no value in data.

If you’re still here, then I am assuming you either a) believe I have a valid point, or b) just want to see how crazy I am for opening my new data blog with a post spouting the lack of value in data.  We’ll see which option is right by the end of the post because right now, I am not so sure which one is right and which one is wrong.  After all, if there is no value in data, why should companies hire data professionals and give them a pay check?

My long-form response is too long for this format, so the short response is that data requires context.  I agree that action is important, but the purpose of a data visualization professional is to provide information with the relevant context to assist decision-making.  It’s not that there’s no value in data or that action is everything; it’s a multi-faceted process, and the specific relevant data will depend upon the industry.  In professional sports, front offices certainly use accurate(-ish) metrics which show the worst performing players on the team because sports leagues are zero-sum games.  Finding out Fred in Accounts Receivable spends the most time at the coffeemaker each day (17 minutes instead of 12 minutes!) matters a lot less, so unless you’re doing a Taylor-style factory study—and if you are, I’ll have other words with you that also aren’t apropos here—it doesn’t rate high enough in the relative priority list.