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  • Writer's pictureDavid Avery

Little Known Secrets from an Analyst

True confessions of a dataholic!

3 min read

Hi, my name is David, I am a dataholic, and I have a confession to make. Or several confessions.

Being one of the analytics leaders in my organization, I’ve learned that folks have come to view me and my team in a certain light. They come to us with a question, we go to the back room and perform dark arts using data, provide the answer, and then we all go about our merry ways, working toward our business goals.

But what actually goes on in the mind of us who are addicted to data and how do we get our stakeholders the answers they need, help interpret that data, and partner with them to achieve their goals? I’ll give you a hint: it ain’t always easy.

So I’m here to tell you what really happens in the brain of a dataholic. Welcome to my deepest, darkest confessions. *cue dramatic music* Deep breath. Here we go!

Confession #1 Intuition matters – every decision can’t be made off data alone. Experience, business knowledge and data comprehension play a major role in your ability to know the right questions to ask in response to data. Is a 30% profit margin good? How does 30% marketing contribution stack up to industry standards? Is a 25% win-rate normal for that type of product offering? Experience will help navigate these tricky questions.

Confession #2 Sometimes, a BI solution can’t get you the answer as easily as a native tool. Before you yell heresy, we will all admit that some tools natively get to answers that BI tools can’t, either because of API limitations, backend product constraints for that data source, etc.

HOWEVER, a BI tool is still always useful. I repeat, a BI tool is always useful. While that native tool may be very powerful and able to comb through tens of millions of records, does it fall short when hundreds of custom mappings are required or advanced visualizations are needed? Couldn’t an automating an ETL process save weeks of macro-writing? Yes, and yes.


Here are six confessions from a data analyst. What others would you add?


Confession #3

Sometimes, we don’t know the answer. But don’t knock us off the pedestal quite yet. While we might not know the answer off-hand, we know how to get it. Often-times we make it look easy, especially when we have tools as powerful as Qlik products, but most often, the biggest time spent is the time it takes our brains to come up with the best approach. Bear with us.

Confession #4

Our job is to know things. Many times that means people come to us with question about almost anything, analytics-related or not! We sometimes become traffic cops, directing people to resources, people, and tools that answer their question instead of answering ourselves – but we don’t mind and are happy to help.

Confession #5

We are that person in a job interview that lists their weakness as “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” Our commitment to accuracy and integrity may be why people trust us, but we might also need a nudge from time to time to sacrifice perfect for the sake of “good enough.”

Confession #6

We sometimes feel left out. Many times, analytics and performance measurement at organizations is an afterthought when beginning a new project or initiative. Therefore, the ability to measure it and ultimately, decision-making altogether, can pay the price. Get us involved in the planning stages of your project and you’ll have a more successful project or business unit and a friend for life.

Phew! Glad I got that off my chest. One more confession: I shared the above list to give you a preview into the inner-psyche of your friendly neighborhood analyst, but also to learn how to best partner with them to maximize your chance of success. Remember to follow your intuition, always find a use for BI even if you have a great native tool, give them a little time to think through the problem and find the best solution but still urge them along when needed, and bring them on board as early as possible.

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