No matter what your professional goals are, the road to success is paved with small gestures. Often framed via KPIs – key performance indicators, these transitional steps form the core categories contextualizing business data. But what data matters?

In the age of big data, businesses are producing larger amounts of information than ever before and there needs to be efficient ways to categorize and interpret that data. That’s where AI comes in.

Building Data Categories

One of the longstanding challenges with KPI development is that there are countless divisions any given business can use. Some focus on website traffic while others are concerned with social media engagement, but the most important thing is to focus on real actions and not vanity measures. Even if it’s just the first step toward a sale, your KPIs should reflect value for your bottom line.

Small But Powerful

KPIs typically cover a variety of similar actions – all Facebook behaviors or all inbound traffic, for example. The alternative, though, is to break down KPI-type behaviors into something known as micro conversions.

Micro conversions are simple behaviors that signal movement toward an ultimate goal like completing a sale, but carefully gathering data from micro conversions and tracking them can also help identify friction points and other barriers to conversion. This is especially true any time your business undergoes a redesign or institutes a new strategy. Comparing micro data points from the different phases, then, is a high value means of assessment.

AI Interpretation

Without AI, this micro data would be burdensome to manage – there’s just so much of it –but AI tools are both able to collect data and interpret it for application, particularly within comparative frameworks. All AI needs is well-developed KPIs.

Business KPIs direct AI data collection, allow the system to identify shortfalls, and highlight performance goals that are being met, but it’s important to remember that AI tools can’t fix broader strategic or design problems. With the rise of machine learning, some businesses have come to believe that AI can solve any problem, but what it really does it clarify the data at every level, allowing your business to jump into action.

Micro Mapping

Perhaps the easiest way to describe what AI does in the age of big data is with a comparison. Your business is a continent and AI is the cartographer that offers you a map of everything within your business’s boundaries. Every topographical detail and landmark is noted. But the cartographer isn’t planning a trip or analyzing the political situation of your country. That’s up to someone else. In your business, that translates to the marketing department, your UI/UX experts, or C-suite executives. They solve problems by drawing on the map.

Unprocessed big data is overwhelming – think millions of grains of sand that don’t mean anything on their own. AI processes that data into something useful, something with strategic value. Depending on your KPI, AI can even draw a path through the data, highlighting common routes from entry to conversion, where customers get lost – what you might consider friction points, and where they engage. When you begin to see data in this way, it becomes clear that it’s a world unto itself and one that has been fundamentally incomprehensible to users.

Even older CRM and analytics programs fall short when it comes to seeing the big picture and that’s why data management has changed so much in recent years. Suddenly, we have the technology to identify more than click-through-rates or page likes. AI fueled by big data is a new organization era with an emphasis on action. If you’re willing to follow the data, AI will draw you the map.

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Larry Alton

Larry Alton

Larry Alton is a freelance journalist covering issues related to technology and data security.