How was your 2013? Did you run in to a few roadblocks with data? Maybe putting together a report didn’t go as smoothly as you’d hoped? Now is the perfect time to start planning for 2014 and start the new year off with some “healthy” data and analysis practices! Drawing inspiration from a recent ClickZ article, we decided to create our own list of “research resolutions” based on insights from our own experiences. We hope that the following list helps you to not only prepare for the new year but also be successful well into it (and beyond!).

Data Synthesis

Everyone throws the phrase Big Data around and for good reason—companies collect plenty of data points, all of which can be used to better inform their processes, campaigns and overall strategic thinking. However, the operative word is “can”—because while these data present an opportunity to identify information, there is no guarantee that they will. Often, even if you have the data, it is frequently housed in different platforms or databases which can act as a major impediment to constructive analysis. Without combining data, it is difficult to identify meaningful connections or influences across data points. Therefore, if it is at all possible, as part of your research resolutions, consider ways in which you can physically combine the data within one platform. Barring that approach, try to identify ways in which, even if the data remains stored in different sources, it can be exported and combined easily for analysis.

A fresh start for more comprehensive data synthesis equates to more comprehensive analysis and decision-making; sometimes simply getting all of the data in front of you makes it much easier to draw the kinds of insights you need. Moreover, there is immense value in how you collect your mountains of data. Be mindful as you set up databases within your organization; the more they are integrated, the more easily you will be able to reach for the right pieces of data from each and combine them in such a way as to efficiently analyze and report out on that information.

Solidify Your Strategy for Pulling Data

As you are thinking about how best to synthesize your data, another important resolution is taking a strategic approach. Specifically, think strategically about the key data points that will answer your research objectives—such as consumer engagement or a comprehensive list of the costs associated with your campaign—to help ensure that you don’t spin your wheels during analysis. Rather, you will be able to quickly digest the most relevant pieces of information that will enable you to act expediently, effectively and with the most value. Additionally, where it doesn’t count, don’t pull in the data for analysis. Just because it’s readily available or easy to obtain doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best data to use. In fact, relying upon this data may confuse the issue or lead you down unnecessary roads. However, where it does count, make the data as granular as possible. The more that you are able to define the level at which you want to be able to apply the data at the outset, the more likely you are to have the “right” data that will generate the kinds of actionable intelligence that your organization needs.

Challenge Inertia and Assumptions

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind the power of inertia. Often, we tend to get caught up in it and forget to revisit the assumptions or background that put something in motion to make sure that they still hold true or are valuable. For example, have you been producing a regular report for an extended period of time without making any real changes to either its format or metrics? (Who hasn’t?) The new year is the perfect opportunity to brainstorm if there are new, interesting and impactful ways in which to either develop or present the information in your report. You could consider, for instance, whether there are alternatives to how you compile or present the data, or even whether a new data point should be included to add an extra layer to your analysis. This is the chance to confirm whether you’re still on the path you want to be on, or if the “road less travelled” is actually where you want to be instead.

Another set of eyes is a good idea, too! Grab a co-worker that’s not familiar with your work and have them read over your report or talk through your data collection to see if there are blind spots or suggestions for improvement. Often, just getting that outsider’s perspective can highlight approaches or solutions you may have not thought of.

Incorporating these “resolutions” into your approaches for 2014 will help to turn your big data into meaningful data, and give you the ability to execute more valuable research and analyses. The next time you start on a campaign or report, take a little more time at the beginning to consider what you want to be able to say at the end. Bringing those considerations into play early on can guide the data you want to include and may even indicate that the “same old, same old” data points just aren’t going to get it done.