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Actionable Information From Soft Data

Hard data is bread and butter of engineers, Six Sigma Practitioners, and generally anyone involved in IT. Hard data is absolute – it provides the numbers for people who work in numbers. However, George Chynoweth knows that soft data is valuable too, and can lead to information that provides next steps. However, collecting soft data has to be done in such a way that the most important information is provided: both through the understanding and ease of use for the respondent as well as the data analysis capabilities of the people providing the survey. For instance, consider how to make your data understandable: Consider converting everything to percentages: this allows easy comparison across all items, as well as quick evaluation of each item. The numbers above convert to 83% and 78%, respectively. Everyone can quickly see and evaluate a difference of 5% with minimal explanation. The leverage data, currently in the form of correlations, should be converted to shared variance: square the correlation and multiply by 100. The display of an item with 60% leverage versus one with 30% makes technical explanations unnecessary – the boss can see which one is more important and by how much, and has a good understanding of why. Next, convert the Cv (standard deviation/mean) to a percentage by multiplying by 100. The only explanation required here is “lower is better” (six sigma standards will rarely apply to soft data). The beauty of these conversions is that the information contained in the data has not been lost or altered: information integrity remains intact, but now it’s understandable at a glance. By making the surveys easy to complete and making the data collected easy to understand, you’re assuring the highest possibility of creating actionable information – something that can help limit the impact of issues and optimize opportunities.

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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