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  • Olivia Hugentobler

What To Do When You Run Into a Complex Data Issue

Many organizations are starting to realize the advantage of investing in data collection and management, but with great amounts of data being generated daily, from payroll, accounting, HR, legacy systems, and other client care systems, organizations can find themselves with confusing or complicated data problems


How does your organization make sense of this complexity and gain value from your data?


several colorful graph segments laying in different directions
With data being generated daily, from payroll, accounting, HR, legacy systems, and other client care systems, organizations can find themselves with confusing or complicated data problems

Cleaning, conforming, de-duplicating, and preparing data for processing and visualization can be complicated, but there are solutions that can help the process go smoothly.


During Pinnacle Health informatics' nearly half-century of combined experience in data warehousing, reporting, analytics, and business intelligence for behavioral health we have learned a thing or two about handling complex data issues.


Here are three things you can do when you find yourself stuck on a vexing data problem:


  1. Look for clues

  2. Break it down

  3. Seek out help


Look for Clues


The first step to understanding a complex data problem is to look for clues. In other words, ask yourself “What is the data telling me?”


Remember, data is just numbers without specific goals and targets. In order to make use of your data, you will want to tie it back to what you want to accomplish with it.


A woman with black hair looks over a computer screen with a graph on it. Another hand is also pointing at the computer screen analyzing the data.
data is just numbers without specific goals and targets. In order to make use of your data, you will want to tie it back to what you want to accomplish with it.

When sorting through data, look for patterns, and identify the overarching message—do the numbers show that productivity is down? Does it look like your budget is realistic? Do the numbers indicate that you should be shifting focus areas?


This step doesn’t just help you understand complex data; it also helps you present your findings to others. Most people find it beneficial to have the story told to them in simple, clear terms.


If possible, consider how to visualize the data in a meaningful way that will tell a story to everyone in your organization, not just those in the IT department or those versed in data analytics.


Once you know what you’re trying to say, run with it. Muddying up your data set with unrelated metrics won’t just confuse you, it’ll also confuse everyone else.


a woman with black hair stands in front of a projector screen showing a graph with data points. She is giving a presentation to a group.
Consider how to visualize the data in a meaningful way that will tell a story to everyone in your organization, not just those in the IT department or those versed in data analytics.

Break it Down


Some master mathematicians who work in algorithm research used to apply, “the chocolate bar” technique.


Several chocolate bars stacked on top of each other
If you have a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller pieces until you reach the elementary issues will then allow you to expand piece by piece until you understand the overall problem.

This comes from a relatively complex math problem: if you have a 5x12 chocolate bar, how many times do you need to break it up to have only singles pieces?


The best way to solve it is to consider a 1x2 bar first, then a 1x3, a 2x3, etc.


This technique teaches that, if you have a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller pieces until you reach the elementary issues will then allow you to expand piece by piece until you understand the overall problem.


This can be applied to complex data issues as well. Break down the problem into what you understand or your “knowledge blocks” and build from there.


many different wooden building blocks of different shapes and sizes
Break down the problem into pieces that you understand or your "knowledge blocks" and build from there.

By building on your pieces of understanding, you may eventually be able to solve the entire problem.


Seek out Help


Sometimes, the best course of action is to seek out help.


Seeking out help can save you time, money, and valuable resources in the long run. It can also give you a new point of view and make solving similar issues in the future much easier. Often, it only takes a bit of guidance and a trained eye to lead the way.


two people look at a tablet that has graphs and data points on it
Often, it only takes a bit of guidance and a trained eye to lead the way to a solution when it comes to complex data issues

A previous customer of ours ran into a vexing data issue and was on the edge of finding a solution, they just needed a bit of direction and guidance.


They signed up for Pinnacle’s Data Help Desk, and after a few short minutes using desktop share, we were able to find the missing piece to their query. They were able to submit the needed data on time with no extra costs.


With Pinnacle’s Data Help Desk, you can schedule a 20-minute, free, no-obligation chat with the staff at Pinnacle. We will do our best to help you solve your issue and give you some pointers in a new direction.


At Pinnacle, we wake up every day looking forward to new data challenges. We'd be glad to help you! Click on the link below and schedule some time to chat, ask questions, and perhaps solve your latest data issue.


Schedule your data help desk appointment


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