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Biased and unbiased data and why they matter

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Biased and unbiased data and why they matter


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Do you realize that data analysis can be biased or unbiased? Not knowing the difference between biased and unbiased data discovery can prevent you from identifying valuable opportunities.

Biased data

As a business professional, you excel because of your experience. However, experience can take you only so far. You can end up trapped in your own perceptions of business.

Carrying out data analysis can be insightful, but it can also bring certain pitfalls. Biased analysis is one such pitfall.

When you ask a question with a particular outcome in mind (“How many units have we sold in the last year?”), then you are revealing a bias. You are expecting an outcome that fits parameters you set—in this case, number of units sold by time taken to sell them. That’s bias and that results in only one outcome.

Is there anything wrong with biased data?

Not at all! Which is exactly why analytics can be massively powerful even in the hands of a business professional without specialist training. He or she knows exactly what to ask of the data.

Now, I have a degree in analytics and I know how to get the best information from data. But, as useful a skill as this is, I still need to sit down with clients and find out what questions they want answered.

Biased analysis is essential for business: you need to narrow your focus to get information that you can act upon. So, knowing how many units you sold in the last year might help determine—possibly predict—how many units you sell this year. This is crucial for planning and budgeting.

Unbiased data discovery

Have you ever considered that when you are conducting an analysis, what you are seeing is only one perspective on data—that is, your own? Therefore, you will get back the answer that you want. However, that might not be the complete answer.

For example, if we pose the earlier question and you get an answer like “X units were sold in the last year,” that does not mean that you have the whole story.

Alternatively, using unbiased data discovery might reveal answers to questions that you did not ask…who is your top salesperson? Or what is the best day of the week to promote your product?

Taking an unbiased approach to data opens the door to unseen insights. It provides a different perspective that might turn out to be far more important than you ever imagined.

Watson Analytics has built-in unbiased data discovery

Watson Analytics is tailor-made for business users— people like you who can leverage the power of analytics without getting bogged down in the technicalities. However, it understands that it can still be a little overwhelming to simply start asking questions.

While 80% of the time Watson Analytics appears to be uploading data, it is actually analyzing it. Consequently, unlike other analytical tools, Watson Analytics provides you with “starting points.”

unbiased data Watson Analytics starting points

Watson Analytics provides unbiased data discovery, as soon as you add data, giving you starting points to investigate your data.

Alternatively, you can ask a question in simple English.

Mining more unbiased data insights

Watson Analytics is curious and is always looking for more insights. When you select one of the analyses that Watson Analytics proposes, you can dig deeper. The Discoveries sidebar suggests further insights. Imagine someone standing over your shoulder, looking at what you’re doing and suggesting a few other ways to look at your data!

unbiased data insights

When you click the Discoveries sidebar, Watson Analytics gives more perspectives on your data.

Summarizing the benefits of Watson Analytics unbiased data discovery

Watson Analytics has revolutionized the way we query, analyze and understand data by:

  • Recommending starting points for beginning an analysis
  • Offering multiple perspectives on data
  • Providing a cognitive discovery tab that suggests potential insights you can explore
  • Expressing insights visually for easy understanding

Try unbiased data discovery

Sign up for a free trial of Watson Analytics for 30 days. Upload your own data securely or use the sample sales data provided in the trial to explore unbiased data discovery. It could change your business perspective – forever!

About the guest blogger

Swathy Rengarajan is CTP, Data Analytics technician for Watson Analytics, Watson Analytics for Social Media, Planning Analytics and Cognos Analytics at IBM. She holds a Master of Science Degree in Business Analytics from UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, Dublin, Ireland.

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