3. Applications of Data Analytics


Data literacy skills can be used to improve productivity in a wide variety of business situations. Learn about some relevant applications of these skills in this lesson.


  1. Lesson Goal (00:09)

    The goal of this lesson is to learn about how data literacy skills can be applied in business contexts, in a way that will boost your productivity greatly.

  2. Benefits of Spreadsheets (00:33)

    Spreadsheets are a versatile tool, so they're most useful to a company that doesn’t want to use a large number of applications. A small business would be an example of this. Such a business can use spreadsheets to store data, perform calculations, and create reports or visualizations.

    Spreadsheets have the advantage of being cheap, and being compatible with various computers and operating systems. This makes them ideal for small companies.

  3. Benefits of Data Transformation (01:40)

    Applications like Alteryx are useful to companies that need to combine data from various sources and transform it before analyzing it. Typically, these companies are large enough to handle very large amounts of data.

    Siemens is an example of such a company. They used Alteryx to automate a process of consolidating and transforming various data sets. A task that took hours with spreadsheets was reduced to 5 minutes with Alteryx. This provides big boosts to the company’s productivity.

  4. Benefits of Visualization (02:52)

    Visualization is beneficial to businesses of any size looking to communicate the results of data analysis projects quickly. An example of this would be a sales team looking to improve the performance of their sales reps. A dashboard showing key sales metrics helps them identify key information quickly and in an accessible format. While the productivity gains of this approach might not be easy to measure, they definitely exist.


In the previous lesson, we introduced the key analytic skills that will make you data literate.

In this lesson, we'll look at examples of how data analytics can boost business performance through dramatic productivity gains.

We'll look at the productivity benefits of three of the skills we mentioned in the last lesson, spreadsheets, data transformation and visualization.

Let's start with spreadsheets. As we discussed in the last lesson, spreadsheets are a versatile tool that can be used for most business tasks. As a result, the best application of them is probably to a small business that doesn't want to burden itself with a large number of software applications. Let's take the example of a small retailer. They could use a spreadsheet to store sales data, perform calculations on this data such as finding profits or losses and then produce reports or charts analyzing the sales data. While you could come up with alternative applications that would be better for these individual tasks, using a single versatile application can be far easier for a small business with limited funds. Spreadsheets also have the advantage of being relatively cheap as most businesses will have them anyway. This is unlike applications such as Alteryx which can be more expensive and beyond the reach of smaller organizations. They also have the advantage of being compatible with pretty much any computer or operating system which is not always the case for more specialized applications.

Next, let's discuss the gains from data transformation and ETL applications. Applications such as Alteryx can be used to automate processes such as loading and transforming datasets before they're analyzed. These processes can be quite mechanical so this is perhaps the data literacy skill whose impact can be most easily measured numerically. In contrast to spreadsheets, data transformation is probably most useful in very large companies. An example of this is the company Siemens, who use Alteryx to automate the process of consolidating millions of pieces of financial data with various other datasets in order to calculate various financial metrics of interest. Using spreadsheets for this process would take several hours and would be prone to errors while using Alteryx allows the process to be done in five minutes. This greatly reduces the amount of time spent on tedious manual tasks and reduces errors so it's a big boost to the company's productivity. Finally, let's consider the benefits of the scale that is data visualization.

Visualization is useful in businesses of any size and can help in any situation where you want to communicate the results of your data analysis in a way that will get noticed.

As an example, let's consider a sales team within a large company that uses a dashboard like this to identify key metrics of relevance to them. As we can see, the dashboard gives information relating to individual sales reps under the company as a whole. There are many benefits to presenting information in this way. Without a dashboard, these figures would probably be buried in a bunch of spreadsheets somewhere. In this format, important information and insights are available quickly and in an accessible format to anyone who can view the dashboard. This particular dashboard can also help employee motivation by generating a bit of competition between these sales reps. It can be difficult to distill these benefits into a simple metric, but there is a little doubt that there are large productivity gains to be had from visualizing data well. There are many more examples we could discuss around sourcing and querying data, machine learning and automation, but for now, I hope these are useful examples of ways in which data literacy can transform the way you work.

In the next lesson, we'll move on to discuss more long-term trends in data literacy.

a b c
Understanding Data
Learning Data Literacy


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