So you want to build an insights engine? Three lessons on turning data into insight.

By Julian Pitt, Head of Transformation Delivery

Today, many people say things like, ‘data is king’, ‘data is the new oil’, or ‘it’s all about the data’. While there has been an explosion of data available to us, it’s being able to turn this data into actionable insights that is important.  

Regardless of what information is required, it is important to ensure that the appropriate processes, systems and infrastructures are available in order to process large amounts of data. Here are three lessons we have learned through building Centrepoint’s insights engine, Centrepoint A.I.

Lesson 1: Clearly articulate your goals and plan accordingly.

We have all seen statistics that show the correlation between having a business plan and profitability. Any plan, to be used successfully, needs to be a living document that is referred to and updated regularly. 

In order to build a tool that would be valuable to our advisers, it was important to be clear on the problem and how data could be used to solve that problem. Like assessing the performance of an investment portfolio, point-in-time information is interesting; but it is through comparing different time periods that valuable insights are gained. We found that most advisers defined success as progress against themselves.  However, while not a key driver, we also knew that many firms were interested in understanding how various performance metrics and business ratios compared to other similar firms. The result was the introduction of benchmarking ratios that provided comparisons against the key focus areas of financial, compliance and clients. 

We also developed a goals tool for firms to self-assess areas of their business, create goals, and set objectives and tasks.  Each objective will pair with best practice guidance on how the objective can be achieved – with step-by-step instructions. Aggregating the common goals and objectives across the community has allowed Centrepoint Alliance to develop targeted dashboards based on key metrics and focus our service efforts on the most important goals of our clients.

Lesson 2: Where is your data?

In order to build actionable insights, you need to review your data sources and gain a clear understanding of the data you can use to build into insights. We found that the data we had access to was wide, varied, and there was a lot of it.  

We engaged with experts who helped us to identify what was possible and helped us to make it happen. This meant that rather than trying to capture everything, we were able to identify those systems that provided the data we needed to create the insights our clients valued.

The major challenge was the decentralised input of data. This is a nice way of saying that while we have diligent users of advice technology, the way they used it (even people within one firm) was very disparate.

To obtain valuable insights, our firms have been embracing the need to change their administrative behaviours in order to access the information needed to better drive business performance. One way of doing this is through reducing the amount of free text fields available and moving to more structured data - using drop down options is one example. 

Lesson 3: Dashboards rule

To make sense of the data and build insights that are valuable and actionable, we created dashboards to better report on key business drivers. The objective of dashboard reporting is to provide clear and concise information of the key drivers of business performance. Dashboard reporting should be a synopsis of business operations and provide information in a visual format that is easy to read, remembered and understood by key decision makers in a business. This should in turn improve decision making.

The dashboards allow decision makers to:

  • Evaluate business performance to find areas where business performance could be improved.
  • Implement actions in areas where the business determines that its performance should improve.
  • Monitor and reporting actions taken to improve business performance. 

Every business owner and manager will benefit from implementing processes that capture data and provide insights that can be easily evaluated to identify areas for improvement, risks and trends.