We've reached Part 4 of the “Flex Your Data Muscles” analytics challenge. Have you taken the opportunity to tackle some, if not all, of the challenges presented so far? If you are unfamiliar with this challenge, refer to Part 1 of this series for further details. In summary, each month throughout this calendar year, you will be presented with one analytics-related challenge to tackle. The challenges, each with two levels (basic and advanced), will be presented and discussed via this newsletter and the Hospitality Upgrade magazine.

A review of last month’s challenge: What questions do I have?

Last month I mentioned that it would be prudent to start every analytics endeavor with a definition of the business questions facing you along with the desired outcomes before embarking on a data-gathering expedition. Thus, the challenge for March presented you with the task of identifying and listing the top five business questions that you frequently need answers to. The key was to focus on your high priority information needs and it didn't matter whether or not you currently get all the required information to adequately answer the questions.

Most of us have numerous priority questions that need answers. However in order to avoid an information overload, we should focus on the top five, or perhaps top seven, information needs that will help us make better decisions. Could your information needs be related to: labor costs, revenue management, accounting for food and beverage, human resources or reservations? Depending on your role, you may have come up with some very interesting business questions and perhaps even included metrics and performance indicators that you are accountable for. It does not matter whether others consider items on your list to be insignificant. The important issue is the role you play and how answers to these questions help both you and your hospitality organization improve efficiency and perform better. As you went through the thought process I hope this challenge also gave you the opportunity to formalize, refine or prioritize your information needs.

For those taking the advanced challenge, you were also asked to review the information gaps facing your various departments/functions as well as the strategic subject areas that frequently have unresolved questions and challenges. You may have required some level of tact when discussing this issue with some departments or your colleagues, as not everyone will be forthright about issues related to information gaps for fear that it might be perceived as a sign of incompetence. I’m sure that your perseverance paid off! Hopefully, the challenge also prompted you to review your key metrics and performance indicators for relevance and correct alignment to your corporate strategic vision.

Series Recap: What We’ve Looked at so Far

We are optimistic that the series will be thought-provoking and give you the opportunity to review a few analytics-related issues you may have procrastinated or totally ignored.



What we did


Challenge #1 - Where is my data?

The first step and challenge was to locate and create a list of your various data sources (both internal & external).


Challenge #2 - What’s in my data source?

The second step challenged you to figure out exactly what's in your data sources.

For example:

Source A has revenue, reservations, and guest information

Source B has revenue, expenses, and departments


Revenue is located in Source A, Source D

Guest Information is located in Source A (summary), Source C (detailed)


Challenge #3 - What questions do I have?

During the third step and challenge, you were asked to identify and list the top 5 business questions that you frequently need answered. It didn't matter whether you currently get all the required answers or it's on your wish list.


Challenge 4 (April): What data can help answer my questions?
Identifying the data you need to help answer your questions

Next to the task of actually obtaining the data required for your analytics and making it ready for use, the process of identifying the data you need can be quite involving. It requires a reasonable understanding of your data sources, the available datasets within the data sources, what exactly is contained in those data sets, and how the data sets relate to each other. Of critical importance is the need to precisely define what you are looking for (i.e. the questions you need answers to) before you go looking for data. Just fishing for data within your data sources may be applicable in certain scenarios, but it is rarely required and impractical in most hospitality analytics settings.

The efficiency of the data identification process may be hindered by issues such as: lack of adequate knowledge of where to look for data, poor data governance, lack of effective leadership, and data overload due to the fact that in some cases a lot of data was gathered before the business questions were defined.  Proper planning, the adoption of best practices, and starting with simpler analytics tasks (rather than biting much more than you can chew) can help make the process less daunting.

Let’s now move on with our challenge. With the knowledge we have on our various sources of data along with the types of information they contain (the list we created by the end of the second part of the challenge) and a list of our top priority business questions (information needs), we can now logically move on to the next step which will be to map our information needs to our identified sources of data. Remember that we have not yet gathered any data. All we know is that the sources exist and that they contain certain types of data.




·         For each of your top five business questions identified in Part 3 of the series, map the types of information (along with the data sources) that you think can help provide the desired answers.

·         For each subject area (and associated questions) identified in Part 3 of the series, map the information needs to your data sources.

·         Also map the information needed for your benchmarks, key metrics and performance indicators.

Comments and Hints

Basic Level: This month’s challenge may seem more daunting than it really is. What you have to do is take each question and determine what information you need in order to get an adequate answer. As you go along, you should rely as much as possible on the data sources list that you created, as this is the data/information you know you have. Also note that there may be data/information gaps, i.e. you do not have the data you need to help answer the question. Any format may be used to tackle this challenge. Example:

  • Information Need 1:
    Ratio of labor cost to revenue (monthly, year-to-date…and compared to budget and prior year)
    Where can I get data to meet this need?
    • Current year detailed revenue data – Source A
    • Current year labor cost – Source B, Source D
    • Budget – Source unknown (information gap)
    • Prior year revenue and labor cost data – Source A
  • Information Need 2:
    Staff turnover rate (monthly, year-to-date…and compared to prior year)
    Where can I get data to meet this need?
    • Readily available report exists in Source D

Don’t forget to seek the input of your colleagues or other departments as they might be more familiar with how to get the required data/information.

Advanced Level: If you do not have access to adequate data to support the benchmarks, metrics, and performance indicators you have established, then it would be a good idea to either refine what you have established or take measures to ensure that the required data can be obtained.

Collaboration Forum

I encourage you to participate by making comments on this newsletter or via our forum, to enable you to ask questions of each other, discuss how challenges were tackled, and also raise issues/problems that you encounter. Comments are meant to be interactive as well as educative, thus I’ll urge users to be respectful of each other.