28 Aug The Hidden Value of Great Analysis
Great analysis enables teams to learn. But, in more empirical terms, what is the true value of great analysis? And, what is the value that’s lost when your analysis ends up being not so great?
To figure this out, we need to figure out what great analysis looks like. Then, and only then, are we able to figure out what the value of that analysis is.
Why Everyone Needs a Best Friend Who Is An Analyst
When you’re analysing your data you’re going to run into problems, it’s the nature of the work. Whether it’s a missing piece of information that you thought you had, misunderstanding what the meaning of a vaguely labeled column name, or not being able to do the mathematics for a specific question you’re trying to answer.
In great organisations, what you immediately look for is whether or not that brilliant colleague is at their desk across from you. That’s because you want to be able to look up and say, “Hey, you’ve worked on physics problems like this before, right? What if I wanted to…”
Unfortunately, many people don’t have an expert colleague at their fingertips to help. Even if they did, they may feel bad about constantly disturbing them.
In a bind, one might turn to Google. Sadly, the answers to analyst questions are not always easy to find – they could be hidden in members-only sites, on page 17 of some forum, or in poorly written technical documentation.Google doesn't always have the answers for Analysts. Click To Tweet
It’s because of this that analysts can waste a lot of time and become extremely frustrated. We return again and again to the reality that really only other analysts are qualified to help analysts answer the challenging questions about their work.
Beyond that, analysts are also the only ones who can push your analysis to be even more insightful than expected. It’s analysts who are able to understand the semantics of what you might be trying to do, help you look for answers to unasked questions, and suggest approaches that a search engine alone is unable to do.
The Future Analysis Friend
We realised this at Pace Insights, which is why we’ve built Analysis Accelerator. Without promoting ourselves too heavily, we built this because people want bespoke help, from people who understand what they’re trying to do and without having to jump through hurdles or rely on clicking through pages of Google results.
We bring this up because we know that doing great analysis is about helping your team learn faster than your competitors. Clearly, given enough time, any analyst can find the answers to their question, but time is the enemy and it shouldn’t be wasted searching online.Great analysis is about helping your team learn faster than your competitors. Click To Tweet
What people are really looking for is an answer that comes quickly, without the frustration that they’re accustomed to. In business parlance, they’re looking for a great return on their investment. That return is time that they can use to get back to their work.
What’s the ROI?
Beyond saving time, which is the most quantifiable return on investment for asking someone else to help with analyses, there are three other tangible items that analysts are looking to get back.
First, they’re looking be able to help themselves next time. No-one wants to have to go back time and time again to the same people asking for the same answer, never to learn for themselves. What they want are spreadsheets that they can use, calculations that they can save for future use, and tips & tricks on how to approach these types of questions in the future. Essentially, they want to be taught to fish, not only given the fish.
Second, they want to be making a great contribution to their team’s decision-making. They want to be known as the people who can analyse quickly and effectively, and then present their results in a compelling and intuitive way. In the eyes of analysts and their larger teams, knowing when to ask for help — and where the best place to get that help is — becomes a key competitive advantage.
Finally, they’re looking for mistake-free work. They want to be able to develop tools and systems that help them capture reliable information, make solid recommendations and provide insights that are based on great data. They want to be producing high-value reliable output.
For each of these returns — time, education, reputation, and mistake-free results — there is a common element: the need for an end-to-end support service.
It’s not about giving them a number or a .csv file that only answers their question. It’s about supporting strategy, concepts, core technologies, and practices that will make them better analysts. It’s about making them so good at their job that at some point in the future they’ll no longer need to ask for help.
What It Should Look Like in the Real World
These concepts can be a bit hard to comprehend in the abstract, so to make this make more sense, we’ve pulled three recent examples of how we’ve helped people with their analysis problems. (Lightly edited for easier reading.)
Example #1: Cutting Down on Manual Processing Time
Analysis Problem: “I’ve got this dataset in Excel. It’s got race split times in it. They look right, but when I click on the cell the number is all weird. I can’t use it like that so I’m currently going through each number and re-typing it so that it’s in a format I can use. Any suggestions? I’ve about 3000 numbers to change and I’ve already spent ages on this. It’s driving me
Our solution: “Try the attached file. We’ve created a little script that changes this for you automatically. Just pop it in where you need it. Let us know how you get on 🙂 ”
- Two weeks of practitioner time saved, along with two weeks of frustration avoided
- Improved accuracy, no longer reliant on manual input and human error
- A junior practitioner educated
- A very happy team, satisfied boss, and faster answers
Example #2: Preparing a New Facility
Analysis Problem: “We’re going on training camp. It’s going to be hot. We have a room at the facility where we’ll be doing training with up to X number of athletes at the same time. We need that room to be at a controlled temperature because otherwise it will just get too hot. Any idea how many air conditioning units we’d need? We’ve had a quick look on Google but it’s not straight forward.
Our Solution: “Yes, it’s not straightforward. The unit of measure you need to look for is the British Thermal Unit (BTU). Here is a link explaining more about it. Here is another link to an online calculator where you can specify the room size, number of people and room type and it will give you the capacity you need. Also, here is a link to some practical explanation on how this works – it’s well written and simple to understand. Let me know if you need anything else. Best of luck and think of us here working in the cold! 🙂 ”
- The ability to understand how air-conditioning works for their situation.
- The ability to research and order an appropriate number of AC units for their needs ahead of time. Saving money and frustration.
- They’re going to look professional and well prepared on arrival at the training camp.
- Time will not be wasted trying to source locally or “seeing if we could get away with it”
Example #3: Dashboard Complications
Analysis Problem: “I’ve got this dashboard I’m developing in Power BI. You’ll see in one chart I’m trying to plot a bar and a line. For some reason, the line is giving me an average value and not the value at each point. It’s really frustrating as I want to show the longitudinal progression, and compare this value over time relative to the other data, not show the average. Any
Our Solution: “You’ll need to create a separate table and link them together with a common
ID. Have a look at the attached Power BI file and associated Excel file with the common table. It will need some tidying up but you should be fine now. Let us know if you need anything else 🙂 ”
- Solution found and working example given
- Practitioner able to progress with their work, without getting stuck on a tool’s intricacies
Some Final Things to Consider
In each of these situations, and in the others we’ve faced, we’ve found that the hidden value of great analysis is being able to move fast, with confidence. That’s why we’re always aiming to provide ideas and recommendations, references, links, working examples, and fixes to existing work all within one business day.
It’s like having someone sit across the desk from you with all of the answers you need, always available to help and keen to see you succeed.