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Actionable Insights: Business Intelligence for Startups

What product vertical should you expand to next? Which new customer segment should you lean into? What optimizations can you make to improve user experience?

Actionable insights are meaningful findings that result from analyzing data. They make it clear what actions need to be taken or how one should think about an issue. Companies invest heavily in business intelligence tools but less so on generating actionable insights from those reports. In today’s world, actionable insights should be a primary driving factor for decision-makers.

During this Startup Boston Week event, Nishant Gandhi, Team Lead at Explainable AI, Zosia Kossowski, Product Manager at Hubspot, Sri Krishnamurthy, CEO & Founder of Quant University, and Brian DeCandia, Senior Manager at WHOOP, and moderator Deja Destiny Bond, Product Manager at The Commons Project, shared their experiences on how to leverage actionable insights toward your own business intelligence.

Much like the task of sorting through vast sets of data to identify key trends, I was posed with the difficult mission of highlighting the most important highlights from the hour-long panel.

While the conversation spanned a variety of critical topics surrounding data and business intelligence, three themes rose to the surface throughout:

1. Assign a point person to be responsible for data oversight and governance.

Often overlooked by many, all four of our panelists noted the importance of ensuring there is someone within your organization dedicated to understanding the data you are working with. This appointed data officer will take charge of processes such as identifying measurable KPIs, keeping data secure and accurate, as well as helping visualize the data sets.

As your startup scales, maintaining the integrity and proper governance of the data at your disposal is of utmost importance.

2. Determine what data matters.

Before dissecting the data on hand, it's necessary to capture a sense of what you as a company are trying to identify in using it. “This is where the importance of defining what data matters lies.

Otherwise, you will get lost in the actionable aspects of data insights,” shared Sri. He then encouraged audience members to pose questions which can help narrow the focus on gathering the most relevant data. “This will allow you to start seeing patterns and hone in on solving the problems at hand.”

Brian, of WHOOP, agreed, pointing out that for sales specifically, there is significant data you can use to find out which customers are actually buying or using your product. In order to maximize the attainable value, your company needs to thoroughly understand the context surrounding the data and be able to separate the important from the irrelevant.

3. Use the inexpensive tools at your disposal.

Startups, especially those pre-profit, are often desperate to remain as lean as possible from an expense perspective. Thus, our panelists shared a few key ways in which founders can keep operating expenses low in the early stages of their companies’ growth. “Product led growth can be key. This is a process in which you give out a piece of software for free. It allows you to collect additional data for free,” said Nishant.

Also in terms of software, Sri recommended utilizing the excellent existing open source tools such as Apache Superset to help with data visualization. “When you don’t have the luxury of building out all of the bells & whistles, you need to focus on a few important things and look to where you can cut costs,” detailed Sri. And finally, “it's important to be constantly evaluating your business,” said Zosia. “Make sure that people are actually using the product you’re investing in as a business. That’s an easy way to keep your expenses in line.”

Our four panelists covered a variety of topics and shared some incredible personal anecdotes throughout the hour-long event. Beyond what we heard from them, do you have any of your own tips to uncovering actionable insights? Let us know in the comments what’s worked for you to keep the conversation going!

Ready to dive deeper? Watch the full video from Startup Boston Week 2021 directly below:


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