Navigating the Data Journey: The Right Technologies for Success

This 6 steps guide will help you navigate your data journey and share how Microsoft's platform of technologies can supercharge each stage.

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    41% of companies say they struggle to turn data into decisions. This is because getting good ideas from data that hasn’t been properly “handled” is nearly impossible. The data journey is a series of steps or stages for handling your organization’s data—leading it to its ultimate, highest, and best use. This journey involves tools and processes to ensure that data is collected, processed, analyzed, and visualized in ways that support decision-making. Successfully navigating the data journey is essential for turning raw data into meaningful insights.

    Velosio sees the journey as six distinct steps, each with its unique role, significance, and enablers. Here, we’ll introduce you to those steps and share how Microsoft’s platform of technologies can supercharge each stage. 

    The Six Steps of the Data Journey 

    1. Reporting: The foundational stage where you gather and present data. 
    2. Analysis: Where you dissect your data to identify and understand trends and patterns. 
    3. Monitoring: You continuously track data metrics to maintain performance standards. 
    4. Forecasting: You begin using your data to predict future trends. 
    5. Predictive Insights: You’re able to proactively identify future outcomes based on historical data. 
    6. Prescriptive Insights: You can offer solutions or actions based on predictive analytics. 

    During stages 1 and 2, organizations are able to ask, “What Happened and why?” During stages 3 and 4, organizations can ask, “What may or is likely to happen?” and during stages 5 and 6, organizations are able to ask, “What will happen, when will it happen, and why will it happen?”  

    The journey is best described as a progression from data that supplies reactive information toward data that informs proactive decision-making. In most organizations, these steps will overlap, repeat, or vary in sequence based on the specific use case and the stakeholders involved. For example, it will always be helpful to know what has happened (Reporting), even as you look to predict what will happen next (Predictive Insights). Keep in mind that the ultimate goal of the data journey is to extract business value from data in efficient, reliable, and reproducible ways. 

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    Microsoft Technologies Help Pilot the Journey

    Now, let’s dive deeper into each step of the data journey to see how Microsoft technologies, including Power BI, Azure Data Lake Storage, and Azure Synapse Analytics, keep you—and your business data—headed in the right direction.  

    1. Reporting—Laying the Foundation with Power BI
      Reporting is the cornerstone of the data journey. It’s where data is gathered, organized, and presented in comprehensible formats. At this stage, the emphasis is on clarity and visualization. Here, Microsoft’s Power BI plays a decisive role. With its intuitive dashboards, rich visualizations, and seamless integration capabilities, Power BI transforms raw data into insightful reports that can drive informed decision-making.

    Imagine you’re a distribution company that wants to gauge monthly product shipments. Power BI allows you to aggregate and present this data in vivid visual formats like charts or heat maps. This could, for instance, allow you to visualize regional shipment densities or identify zones with maximum dispatches. Such insights can be vital for logistical planning, resource allocation, and strategic decision-making. For instance, if a particular zone consistently has high dispatches, you might decide to increase its warehousing capacity in that area or optimize its supply routes to serve that region more efficiently. 

    1. Analysis—The Deep Dive with Azure Data Lake Storage
      Analysis involves thoroughly examining data to identify patterns, anomalies, and trends. This step is all about understanding the “why” behind the numbers. Azure Data Lake Storage is a perfect companion at this stage. As a scalable and secure data lake, it allows businesses to run big data analytics and provides massive storage space for any data type. With data securely stored, your business can analyze vast data sets to extract actionable insights.

    Sticking with our distribution company example, consider a scenario with a sudden surge in product returns from specific regions. Using Azure Data Lake Storage, you can pool together years of distribution data and embark on a deep analytical venture. For example, you could discern if the product returns correlate with a specific batch of products, a particular transport partner, or a specific time of the year. With such granular insights, you can target effective corrective measures. 

    1. Monitoring—Continuous Vigilance with Power BI
      The Monitoring stage involves continually tracking performance metrics and ensuring standards are upheld. Microsoft Power BI offers real-time monitoring capabilities, ensuring data metrics are always in check and your organization’s systems run optimally. 

    Every distribution company knows the importance of real-time monitoring. For instance, monitoring the real-time status of a fleet or inventory levels is pivotal. Power BI undertakes this type of continuous vigil without complaint. Let’s say a vehicle in your fleet experiences unexpected delays. Real-time monitoring could immediately flag this, allowing you time to reschedule or redirect goods to maintain on-time deliveries. 

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    1. Forecasting—Anticipating the Future with Synapse
      Forecasting is the crystal ball phase of the data journey. Businesses aim to use their current and historical data to forecast future trends. Azure Synapse Analytics excels in this realm. It unites big data and data warehousing, providing an integrated environment for data preparation, data management, machine learning, and business intelligence. Synapse offers businesses the tools they need to predict and prepare for future scenarios.

    Successful distribution companies understand the value of accurate forecasting—leveraging past data to anticipate future demands. With Azure Synapse Analytics, you can, for example, predict which products are likely to see a surge in demand during the holiday season. This predictive ability gives you time to stock up adequately, preventing stock-outs and ensuring you can meet customer demand. 

    1. Predictive Insights—Looking Ahead with Azure Data Lake and Synapse
      Moving beyond mere forecasting, Predictive Insights allow your business to identify probable future outcomes based on historical patterns. The combination of Azure Data Lake Storage and Azure Synapse Analytics becomes invaluable here. Storing historical data and then using Synapse’s robust analytics capabilities, businesses can chart likely future events, ensuring you’re always a step ahead.

    Building upon forecasting, Predictive Insights bring in a more refined perspective. Your distribution company could use insights from Azure Data Lake Storage and analytics from Azure Synapse to predict potential supply chain disruptions based on historical data about weather events, strikes, or geopolitical tensions. Such foresight can be invaluable, allowing you to proactively strategize alternative routes or backup plans. 

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    1. Prescriptive Insights—Charting the Course with Power BI and Synapse
      Finally, Prescriptive Insights involve offering solutions or actions grounded in predictive analytics. It’s about determining the best course of action for future scenarios. Using Power BI to visualize the potential outcomes and Azure Synapse Analytics to model various scenarios, businesses can confidently chart their course, armed with data-backed recommendations.

    Here’s where you move from prediction to action. Suppose a scenario where predictive insights indicate a likely supply chain disruption due to an impending transport strike. With Power BI visualizing potential outcomes and Azure Synapse Analytics modeling various scenarios, you can evaluate strategies like preponing shipments, using alternative transport modes, or even rerouting through different regions. The result? Data-backed decisions that ensure business continuity. 

    Microsoft Fabric Weaves It All Together

    Above, we’ve highlighted the individual Microsoft services that support your company’s data journey, but we’d be remiss to ignore one additional “super service” that unites many of the individual services into a compelling analytics platform.  

    Microsoft Fabric is an end-to-end, AI-powered, unified analytics platform that combines all the data and analytics tools your organization needs. Fabric integrates technologies like Azure Data Factory, Azure Synapse Analytics, Data Activator, Power BI, and Azure Data Lake Storage into a single unified platform, creating the industry’s most comprehensive data and analytics platform.  

    Final Thoughts

    The data journey is a structured approach to visualizing and harnessing the power of your business data. Using the Microsoft suite of technologies and Velosio’s experience and expertise, you can ensure your business is well-equipped at every stage, from initial reporting to prescriptive insights. Reach out to our consulting team to get started.  

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