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Data without insight is noise

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

We recently encountered a revenue pipeline tool advertising a slick display of lots of opportunity data. It looked something like this abridged picture:

The score shows the estimated chance of winning each opportunity by the end of the quarter. The ''Recent Activity'' column displays a detailed, color-coded summary of daily opportunity-level activity at a glance.

What does "Recent Activity" tell us? Is it good to have lots of activity? Well, the most active opportunity above has the lowest score. Moreover, a case could be made that an ideal opportunity requires very little selling effort, and thus, little activity. Is no activity at all good? The third-highest scored opportunity has no activity. Is no recent activity good? Who knows? Summarizing recent activity shows a lot of information but little insight. It's borderline noise.

A better approach is the following: For each opportunity identify a distribution of activities in the last 30 days among similar opportunities over the past year or so. (Or perhaps, similar opportunities that went on to be won.) Then simply display whether or not each opportunity in the pipeline is an outlier (too little recent activity, or too much). That's insight. It tells us which opportunities to ask questions about and why (because their behavior deviated from what was expected).

Data without insight is just noise and, at best, a distraction.


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