Don’t take the analyst out of analytics

1. Geckoboard

By Matthew Robinson

Often I’m asked what my opinion is of this tool, or that tool; this dashboard suite over that one; this vendor solution over a rival. Many times too in the past I’ve trialled tools, audited them and written up summaries of their utility, to help guide a decision about which platform to adopt. They’re always fair questions to put, and they’re always useful exercises to undertake.

But I often wonder if the premise of them invites too much awe and respect for what a tool can do, and too little appreciation of what it is an analyst is needed for. Time then to remind ourselves why you need to be investing in analytics people, as much as (if not far more than) analytics software.

Of course, in this era of real-time analytics and Big Data, companies need the right tools if they are to have any hope of gaining consumer insights, of seeing what online activity works and what doesn’t, and of retaining a competitive advantage. Working with the right tool is important.

But no matter the tools you’re using to analyse your data, without a strategic perspective, without an awareness of what success looks like, and without an understanding of what metrics are actionable, your results analysis will be extremely lacking.

This is why you need practised analysts; people who understand the data, the business challenge, and the route to optimisation, so that you can properly exploit your company’s data. Without that, it’s just data that your tool is slicing and dicing and/or nicely visualising; big stacks of numbers and nothing more. Tools don’t come with an insight button. Well, not yet anyway…


As it happens, fabled analytics guru Avanish Kaushik has long proclaimed a 10 / 90 Rule when it comes to achieving success in analytics; i.e. splitting your investment in "tools" and "people" on a 10 / 90 ratio basis. Such a split sensibly acknowledges that while machines collect data, it’s people that gather knowledge and experience.

Knowledge and experience that sees them able to pay attention to contextual factors alongside overall conversion rates, to the specific user experience tasks assigned to key pages, to any number of relevant micro-conversions, and to the expectations that should be placed upon key channels and/or visitor types.

In short, skilled people are the key if you want to take a funky dashboard view, or a platform suite with 100+ plus reports, and deliver some meaningful, actionable web insights. Because it’s not the tools that will connect user behaviour to other sources of data, to online intention, or to business marketing activity – it’s the analyst.

So take real care not to think that analytics just equals tools; or even that it equals simply looking at the metrics and the data that they surface. No, analytics is something very diagnostic that you should entrust to an analyst. It’s something that should address itself to consumer, brand and business-related questions even before any data has been looked at. It’s something that should be interested only in the results that can be acted upon. And it’s something that always relies more on data interpretation than data visualisation.

Analysts know this, recognise this and act on it. Tools on their own do not. Just one of the reasons why we’re continuing to invest in our Analytics team here at AnalogFolk.