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What are actionable insights?

Whether it is through CRM systems, marketing and sales platforms, edge devices, or various other applications, businesses are collecting vast amounts of data.

For many of these businesses, data is a precious asset. It informs a company's decision-making process and drives its business strategies across three main areas: improving efficiency, predicting future outcomes, and supporting its customers.                          

Still, many businesses haven’t yet managed to derive actionable insights from their data. This post will look at actionable insights in more detail, how they work, and how businesses can achieve them.

What are actionable insights?

Actionable insights is a term in data analytics and big data and relates to information upon which businesses can act, or information that gives businesses enough insight into the future to make better decisions. In simple terms, it is the process of using data to inform decisions and drive actions.

It is important to keep in mind that not all data leads to actionable insights. As a result, businesses will only be able to extract insights from a small segment of their data. The rest is only noise.

Avoiding the noise

To help sort out the useful data from the noise, we should identify the six key characteristics of actionable insights. For insights to be actionable, they should:

  • Align with the business goals. When a piece of insight is closely aligned to our business’s goals and strategies, we are more likely to take action based on that insight.

  • Take into account context and other background information. It is challenging to take action on insights if we do not have context and background information. To use a simplified example, a 10% increase in sales during the month of June may seem like a positive development; if however we compare it with June sales of previous years we might discover that this year’s increase was actually much lower.

  • Be relevant. To be actionable, an insight needs to get to the right person at the right time. Otherwise, it will not get the attention it deserves and will not improve our decision-making ability.

  • Be specific. For an insight to be actionable, it should be as precise and complete as possible, providing enough information for businesses to take action. As such, an insight not only needs to show organisations what happened but also needs to explain why it happened.

  • Be unique. The more unique and interesting an insight is, the more likely businesses will act on it. This is because curiosity can drive decision makers to test or verify unusual results to shed some more light on key data.

  • Be clear. The insight must be clear. Or, in other words, we need to be able to understand the insight. When we understand the insight, we can act on it and improve our decision-making ability.


Getting actionable insights

Business data comes from various, often disparate, sources. As a result, the first step to getting actionable insights is to use the right tools or technologies to access, process and transform this data.

But the process does not stop with the right tools. For getting actionable insights, businesses should also:

  • Define the question. The first step for businesses to gain insights from their data, is defining the question they are looking to answer. In other words, they will have to define what they want to achieve and what data they will be using.

  • Use the right metrics. Businesses will need to measure the data relevant to the problem they are trying to solve. Here, they must  find the right key performance indicators to avoid reinforcing long-held views and assumptions. 

  • Put the data into context. As discussed above, it’ is important to consider the context of the data in order to interpret it better and implement strategic decisions based on it.

  • Have a plan. The final step is to have a clear plan on how to act based on the data. After all, data is only valuable if businesses can translate it into action. This is the only way businesses will achieve improvement in their performance, efficiency, and processes.

Why is using actionable insights so important?

The benefits we as businesses enjoy when we start making decisions based on actionable insights are plenty and can impact all aspects of the company:

  • Make data-driven decisions. When we make decisions based on data, we eliminate guesswork, leading to better, faster decisions and outcomes. 

  • Collaborate better. With actionable insights, the information across our entire business is available, often in real-time, eliminating operational inefficiencies and data silos.

  • Increase your customer satisfaction. Through actionable insights, we gain valuable insight into our customers’ experience, which can help us improve our offering and overall customer journey. In turn, this will improve customer satisfaction, retention and share of wallet.

  • Market your business better. Through data, we will understand our customers better. As a result, you will be able to market our business more effectively, whilst increasing our return on investment.

  • Be more efficient. Every organisation has inefficiencies, and through actionable insights, we will be able to optimise processes, reallocate our resources and increase productivity.

  • Reduce costs. Apart from increasing ROI and being more efficient, we will be able to optimize key areas of our business and create significant cost efficiencies.

  • Spot trends better. Actionable insights give us the ability to spot market trends better and earlier. Because of this, we will be able to take advantage of opportunities and avoid setbacks faster.

  • Be more competitive. When we can better capitalise on opportunities and eliminate inefficiencies, we will be more competitive in the market.

The bottom line

For any business that wants to improve its decision-making abilities while, at the same time, allowing it to capitalise on opportunities far earlier than its competitors, adopting the right tools, skillsets and processes to derive actionable insights is essential. 

If you would like to find out more about how you can get actionable insights from your data, email us at

Other useful links:

Data visualisation 101

Tableau Visual Analytics

Data & Analytics services

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