As analysts we are flooded with information and data day after day. Sometimes so much so that it makes it harder to keep eyes on our goal. Here are 10 points to help any analyst to stay on target:
01. Always look at the raw data (analyze from top to bottom and bottom up)
One of the fundamental steps of our job is to aggregate data in order to get insights and reach conclusions. But many times we overlook the importance of inspecting the granular data – the lowest level of data. You’d be surprised how many insights you can produce, the anomalies you can discover, or the bugs you can catch if you only took a closer look at your raw data.
02. Be business savvy
As analysts, we are required to have knowledge in many fields, software and languages. We must invest time and effort in becoming better and more professional. It is equally important that we get closely acquainted with the business we serve – study the competition, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses relative to our business\product, and that we make a real effort to experience the product from different angles.
03. Don’t take organizational structures for granted
Always make sure to question the current flows and available tools\technologies at your disposal. If you find it hard to influence processes, try to find more people from the organization who can benefit from the changes you propose. Some will surely be willing to help you see them through.
04. Treat your reports\dashboards as products
What makes a good product? It needs to be simple, intuitive and to change a user’s life for the better. Wouldn’t you say your reports need to have the same qualities? Usability testing is a great way to evaluate how good your report is and if it answers your users’ needs. Such sessions are the ultimate way to get authentic feedback and to learn how to improve your work .
05. Your reports are a living, breathing thing
This point is closely related to the previous. What might happen if a company launches a feature and then moves on to the next one, completely neglecting the first feature? At first, users may still use the original feature and enjoy it, but what about a week after the release? A month? A year? At some point users will probably start feeling the neglect and will vote with their feet. Same goes for your reports. If you stop caring for them, your “clients” will too.
06. Keep in mind that measurement affects behavior
Try to think of all the possible outcomes your report\analysis might have, both positive and negative ones. More than once I refused a requested report because I knew the reaction to this KPI would most likely lead to an undesired behavior. (Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to say no!).
07. Be persistent and patient
The most meaningful and influential changes take time. You will surely encounter setbacks, obstacles and failures. Don’t let those stop you. At the end of the journey and with the knowledge that you persisted, these obstacles would serve to make you feel more successful and powerful.
08. Your most important currency is trust
Never devaluate it and never take it for granted. Trust is something you need to earn and then continue to justify. Half-baked reports and hand-waved analyses are sure to erode that trust. Always double-check your work (and ask your peers for a code review), be true to your word and be honest, even if your input doesn’t match with what everyone is hoping to hear.
09. You don’t have to be a graphic designer but you do have to understand visualization
Presenting data graphically is an art form. After putting so much work into data mining, cleaning and analysing, don’t drop the ball at the last yard. Remember: Your reports are products. Think of their visualization as a product UX. Would you be happy using a product with bad UX? If you are new to this field, start from Tufte, a pioneer in the field of data visualization.
10. Don’t become a ‘report machine’
As analysts, we often get requests in the form of “how many users are using this feature\ visited this page\ installed this app?” Sometimes, as soon as you provide the requested number, you understand that these figures don’t even answer the question your clients had in mind. At other times, the question being asked is simply not the right one. Be active! Ask questions and express your doubts. Part of your job is to help your clients understand what to measure, as well as helping them to find the right questions.
Posted by Tali Fulman
Business Analyst Team Leader