How to Design for Discovery

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Discovery continues to reshape how we earn insights from our data. Likewise, discovery tools must continue to spread value across the organization by facilitating low-friction time to actionable insight through “discovery by design.”

Data-driven businesses demand speed, performance, and agility as the backbone for discovery. Layering on the muscle of high-performance, speed, intuitive self-sufficiency, collaborative environments, visualization, and a strong mobile-orientation provides data-centric companies with the power they need to enable true discovery by design and empower everyone within the organization.

Disruption, Speed, and Friction

Disruptive vendors focus on providing tools that facilitate discovery by design; they provide tools and technology solutions that make the end user more independent. Yet, self-sufficiency doesn’t happen in a silo. True discovery tools provide users the ability to connect to large volumes of new data and easily join different data sets together to filter, query, and visualize to explore data in detail without choking the system or relying on IT.

Navigating the “new breed” of truly disruptive discovery tools means we must concentrate first and foremost on the elements that make a tool designed for discovery – with a robust, agile IT-independent and user-centric approach that has better access to data, agile high-performance, and intuitive collaboration. And, as a fail-fast, iterative environment, discovery necessitates speed and performance. This “need for speed” has the prerequisite of the ability to quickly and agilely harness large amounts and varieties of data for exploration to enrich the discovery process.

However, speed for the sake of speed on its own provides little more than a thrill ride through data. The real value of speed in discovery has a direct relationship to the ability to quickly earn insights on data and facilitate interactive and immediate reaction. The real value of speed, then, is the intersection of actionable time to insight and the ease of the discovery process. This is the negative correlation between friction – the incremental events that add time and complexity to the discovery process through activities that slow down the process.

As friction decreases, time to insight increases. Removing friction reduces the barriers to discovery and subsequently increases time to insight – speed. Ultimately, speed is a function of friction, and the less friction in the discovery process, the more value speed can deliver to the business.

Discovery by Design

Discovery is an iterative “fail fast” revolving process wherein data is abstracted or extracted into in-memory and then visualized to see insights into the data. Once new insights have been discovered (or not), discovery continues on a repetitive cycle until new insights are uncovered and shared back into the business. This is the exploratory nature of data discovery: the path isn’t always clear and rarely does the discovery process end up where the original idea was headed. Along the way, mini-insights may change the approach, cause the consideration of new data sources, or illuminate that data quality and stability may not be available and another discovery path is needed.

With self-sufficiency, collaborative sharing environments, visualization, and interactive mobile-orientation, we achieve true discovery by design and overcome barriers to empowering everyone in the organization with valuable insights in real-time.

Self-Sufficient: More and more, self-service is being redefined to be less about access and more about ability. This paradigm shift from self-service to self-sufficiency fundamentally changes the impact of the user from being able to consume a pre-defined something to discover it independently. Equipped with better tools, users are earning greater autonomy and IT independence to become true partners in discovery.

Collaborative: Collaboration gives users the ability to communicate in ways that enable shared insight; drive higher quality in definitions; encourage cooperation and sharing between cross-functional units; and, ultimately, enjoy the benefit of having a broader network of creativity, constructive criticism, and business knowledge and awareness. Collaborative discovery also closes the gap between business users and IT, nurturing data democratization and facilitating the shift of IT to ET – Enablement Technology.

Visual: Keeping discovery visual leverages our innate visual hardwiring and empowers even the most non-technical user with the ability to meaningfully ingest, synthesize, and take action from their insights through the careful distillation of images, color and aesthetic design. Visualization moves discovery from shared understanding to shared insight, and interactive visualizations allow the exploration process to follow train-of-thought thinking to insight.

Mobility: Today, having a mobile-first stance is the catalyst to enriching visual analytics and enabling self-sufficient, on-the-go business users in a new era of discovery. Mobile data discovery puts an inherent premium on an intuitive, interactive "touch" approach to visually interact with data in a familiar, compelling, and meaningful way. And, ultimately, mobility means discovery a portable experience that is personalized for the user.

As more and more discovery tools come to market, those that continue to concentrate first and foremost, on the elements that enable discovery by design will continue to be disruptive in the market and allow companies to truly capitalize on the business process of discovery.

Lindy Ryan is research director, data discovery and visualization, Radiant Advisors.

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