3 ways to know you have a data problem

Leah Weiss
Leah Weiss

No matter what your role is, you need data to be successful. RevOps folks need reliable sales data for forecasting, Customer Success teams need product usage data, and Marketing teams need to understand the customer lifecycle. If you’re lucky, some of that data lives in the tools you already spend all of your time in, like Salesforce or Google Analytics. But at a certain point, you’ll need to combine data from different sources, or worse, pull data directly from your internal SQL database. That’s where things get complicated. Suddenly, there’s a huge chasm between the data your company collects (it’s there somewhere, right?!) and the data you have at your fingertips.

Across the Preql team, we’ve helped build data capabilities at hundreds of companies and we’ve seen just about every permutation of this challenge. When we ask business teams about their data challenges, they almost always tell us about one of these three pain points.


There’s one person who knows how to access the data, and you feel guilty for Slacking them so often, but you’re not sure what else to do! A couple months ago, your new data friend was excited to pull things for you, but recently, the responses have gotten slower and more terse. You’ve been trying to learn SQL in your free time to help out, but it’s hard to devote enough time given everything that’s on your plate.

Data bottlenecks are painful because the information is there but it’s just beyond your reach. Sometimes your data friend is swamped with requests and just can’t get to it. Sometimes you ask for things that seem straightforward and you’re told it’s going to take at least a week. Other times you’re sent results back that don’t make sense because you forgot to include a key bit of business context in your message. You have a lot of empathy for how hard their job is, but part of you is starting to suspect that your data friend is actually trying to gatekeep information, not share it.

When you politely bring up these concerns, your manager says they’ll hire an analyst for your team as soon as more budget frees up. In the meantime, you’ll just have to find another way to get the data you need.

Same metric, different results

Your CRO asks you for the most up-to-date numbers, so you build a quick report in Salesforce, clean it up in spreadsheets, and then send it off. Not long after, you’re called into a meeting. Turns out the numbers you shared don’t resemble what the finance team reported, and now the whole executive team is on a mission to figure out why there are so many versions of the same metric.

In fact, when your CEO goes department by department and asks for basic performance metrics, they get a wide range of answers. The marketing team pulls data from GA, the revenue organization looks at Salesforce, the engineering team is writing SQL against a database you’ve never heard of, and finance is looking at Quickbooks.

No one is wrong per se, but everyone is measuring slightly different things. After a lot of finger pointing it becomes clear everyone needs to agree on definitions before this happens again. An internal task force of sorts is formed and you cross your fingers and hope you aren’t volunteered — sounds like a lot of meetings and mediation.

Data raises more questions than answers

Your CEO has asked to start the weekly Monday meeting by going over KPIs from last week. You spent most of the weekend pulling numbers from disparate sources, combining them in Google Sheets, and hoping you remembered to exclude all of the weird edge cases. You have about 5 slides ready to go and you vow to make it more efficient next week, because all of this manual work took way too long.

The meeting starts and you never make it past the first slide. Your CEO doesn’t trust the numbers and starts grilling you on how things are defined. Other leaders start to try to poke holes too. They throw out a bunch of hypotheticals and ask you how your reporting would reflect made up scenarios (“if someone joined and canceled the same day, which was also the last business day of the month, would it count as revenue this month but churn next month?”). Once you field questions for 45 minutes, all of the action items are ad hoc analyses you need to figure out how to do, or new things they want to add to next week’s reports. You can already feel next weekend slipping away.

The worst part is, the leadership team never got to talk business strategy or make any decisions. You thought data was supposed to add clarity and objectivity, but in your experience, it just creates more confusion and more questions.

How we can help

We’ve lived through every version of these scenarios, and we’re determined to make it better.

Preql gives operational teams access to data they can trust. That means we help you centralize your core metrics from multiple sources, share business definitions, and give you reliable access to data in the tool of your choosing (spreadsheets are just fine by us!). On top of this, you can use Preql to easily create the metrics you care about or customize the ones we auto-generate for you.

If you want to make data less painful and more accessible, get started today with a customized demo.