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Product Management Blog

Assumed facts and educated decisions

I love the definition of data provided by Google - data, in philosophy is “things known or assumed as facts, making the basis of reasoning or calculation”.

There is something beautiful about this definition. It creates a relationship between things assumed as facts and their usage as a source for reasoning - ultimately helping us to make educated decisions.

Reasoning is “the action of thinking about something in a logical, sensible way”.

We know data is fundamental to what we consider to be good user centred design. However using the wrong data is sometimes worse than having no data at all, as it can support questionable decisions and go unnoticed for quite some time. When we use the wrong data to create solutions, we can get stuck in a loop of uneducated change - the opposite of what we are attempting to achieve through true iteration.

change is “an act or process through which something becomes different”

whereas;

iteration is “the repetition of a process or utterance as a means of obtaining successively closer approximations to achieve a solution”

So to really improve things we need to iterate - which can only happen if we use the right data at the right time. Our methods should be providing us with data that fuels reasoning and educates decision making - not having us bark up the wrong tree.

Understanding and proposing likely user behaviour can be tough at the best of times. Understanding the available methods, what they will provide and how to converge data seems vital.

For example, pulling some numbers out of Google Analytics is meaningless without context, which may or may not come from other sources. Context could be whether or not a filter is applied to the data. Or, it could be to find out why people are doing something, not just what they are doing.

It is also important to strike the right cadence with any research. Stages like ’research’ and ’measure’ aren’t optional, although can sometimes be seen as such - we just need to dial up or down the intensity to make it practical on a regular basis.

Thus, it feels more important than ever to ensure we get the basics right; collecting the right data, at the right time, with the right people involved to present back a series of assumed facts that help us make more educated decisions.

I have a feeling my phrase of 2016 will be ‘assumed facts’.

Have a great New Year!