Problems are complicated. Data problems might be even more complex than regular ones. In any case, issues of any sort can cause inertia, and giving you a sense of unease because you don’t know where to begin. Worry not, though, because we want to help by sharing the PPDAC cycle. Problem, Plan, Data, Analysis and Conclusion are the main components of this framework, and even as words on their own, clarity starts to appear more easily.
Let’s start with the Problem. This first stage requires you to pause for a moment and start laying out the issue with factual observations. It helps to be as transparent as possible, and realise that this is not a critique of why the situation is as it currently is. The main task is to describe the situation, being able to elaborate on questions such as “how many?” or “is this normal/expected?”. Remain objective, a spade is a spade and you’re really just laying things out to get a solid overview.
We now move onto the Plan. These will be your strategies to approaching the defined Problem. Not only that, but it’s likely that you won’t have all the data you need on hand, and do you’ll have to spend a lot of time understanding more intricate details of the problem before you can proceed further. Avoid the temptation to skimp on this step. You won’t want to jump into Analysis without having a proper Plan.
Data. This third step is all about how you go out and gather the data. Is it through surveys? Or perhaps there are publicly available datasets that you could leverage? It might be that you’ll have to go and carry out interviews instead. Since you have articulated the problem clearly, and have come up with a solid plan, mapping out the next steps to collect the data should not cause you too many difficulties, but it’s likely that you’ll have some questions to resolve.
The next step is Analyse, which is probably the part that you’re most interested in. As you can probably guess, it’s not recommended that you just jump into here without really knowing the full lay of the land, which is why the first three steps were so helpful. In any case, this is where you’re going to need to use your statistics and understanding of visualisations to build your case. Your data needs you to seek patterns, trends and relationships, so make sure you use the full array of your skills and available tools to help you.
Finally, you come to Conclusions. This is where you make your final decisions and recommendations. From your Analyse step, you need to be able to communicate your insights and findings clearly, using them as justifications for logical next steps. Your ability to infer information, and possibly predict outcomes, will be challenged here.
It is important to recognise that while PPDAC is a fantastic framework for anybody to work with, it’s also not practical to treat it linearly. You’re likely to find yourself revisiting other phases as you go through, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. All it means is that you’re likely to be working with quite a complex problem with many variables and moving pieces. These could include difficult stakeholders who are causing obstacles. But stick with the process, remain objective, and it will show value as it helps you complete your tasks.