If you are looking for a simple yet effective way to turn big data into relevant information that can improve all areas of your business ecosystem, you should consider using the SWAT framework. This framework was developed by Keith B. Carter, a professor and consultant who specializes in actionable intelligence. In his book, Actionable Intelligence: A Guide to Delivering Business Results with Big Data Fast!, he explains how the SWAT framework can help you cut through the big data complexity and hype to get to the heart of the matter: relevant, contextual, meaningful information that you can use to make strategic decisions.
The SWAT framework consists of four steps: Strategic business questions, Wrangle data, Analyze data, and Take action. Let's look at each step in more detail.
Strategic business questions: The first step is to identify the most important questions that you want to answer with big data. These questions should be aligned with your business goals and objectives, and should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). For example, you might want to know how to increase customer loyalty, reduce operational costs, or optimize product pricing. Carter suggests that you should start with one or two strategic business questions and focus on answering them well before moving on to other questions.
Wrangle data: The second step is to acquire the data that you need to answer your strategic business questions. This involves finding the right sources of data, both internal and external, and justifying the cost of acquiring them against the value of answering your questions. You also need to ensure that the data is clean, consistent, and complete, and that you have the right tools and skills to handle it. Carter warns that this step can be challenging and time-consuming, but it is essential for ensuring the quality and reliability of your analysis.
Analyze data: The third step is to use various techniques and methods to analyze your data and find insights that can help you answer your strategic business questions. This involves exploring the data, looking for patterns, trends, outliers, correlations, and causations, and testing hypotheses. You also need to communicate your findings clearly and effectively, using visualizations, dashboards, reports, or stories. Carter advises that you should not only look for what the data tells you, but also what it does not tell you, and what are the risks and opportunities associated with your analysis.
Take action: The fourth and final step is to use your analysis to make decisions and take actions that can improve your business performance. This involves estimating the value of your actions, prioritizing them based on their impact and feasibility, and implementing them in a timely manner. You also need to monitor the results of your actions, measure their outcomes, and learn from their successes and failures. Carter emphasizes that this step is the most important one because it is where you actually deliver business results with big data.
The SWAT framework is a powerful tool for turning big data into actionable intelligence that can help you enable Data Driven Decision Making in your company. By following these four steps, you can ensure that you are asking the right questions, using the right data, finding the right insights, and taking the right actions. As Carter says in his book: "Actionable intelligence is not about big data; it's about big decisions."