Everyone knows that analysts are constantly elbow-deep in numbers, math and data sources. However, in seeing my own skills develop from my very first analysis, as well as training and working with other analysts, it quickly became very clear that an analyst’s ability to translate large volumes of data into a concise, clear summary separates the mediocre from the invaluable.
Yes, web analytics can be granular. Yes, you are looking at a thousand different things, pulling together multiple data sources, segmenting and diving into detail, even investigating theories that did not pan out. But if you can’t tell others what you found, even just the one most important point, in a sentence or two, and in plain language, then you are missing an essential skill that we need as analysts. Your role is not just to dive into the data and draw out insights. It’s to share them with others in a way that they can understand.
Executives are busy. If you can’t fill them in on your findings in one or two sentences, they don’t have the time. You are not always going to be given an hour to present your findings in a lengthy PowerPoint. At times, the closest you may get to “presenting” your analysis may involve bumping into your President in the lunch room and having exactly 15 seconds to respond to a, “So how’s that home page redesign performing?”
Same thing goes for email. Eyes glaze over upon opening a lengthy email (normally followed by “Mark as Unread” with a, “I’ll come back to it later …”) Ask yourself this: “If someone only reads the first paragraph, have I given them everything they need to know (even if it’s abridged)?” By all means, provide more information below, or in an attachment, for those who are more involved and need additional detail. But understand that many just want (or only have the time for) the CliffsNotes version.
The simple truth is that executives are also not as close to the project as you are. You need to be able to pull yourself out of the trenches and find a way to summarise your insights to someone who is not as close to the business and the details of it as you are.
What it comes down to is that your job is not just to analyse data, you are also an information architect. Your role involves taking what is complicated, and making it feel easy to understand and digestible to a less-analytically inclined audience. This involves perfecting two crucial skills:
1. Summarising. (Then summarise your summary. Chances are, it’s still too long!)
2. Presenting your findings in the right way to the right audience. A twenty-five words or less approach may work with your executive team. However, further details with visuals may be appropriate for your data-driven business user. Know the difference. So much of our online business is in trying to present the right offer/ad/site experience/etc to the users of our site. We need to do the same to the users of our insights.