By Wes­ley Hall, Ana­lyt­ics Man­ag­er

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One great thing about being a dig­i­tal ana­lyst is that we get many chances to be impact­ful in our jobs. The major­i­ty of our con­tri­bu­tions come from respond­ing to mar­keters and senior lead­ers who need to make informed deci­sions. Effec­tive­ly answer­ing ques­tions is as much art as sci­ence, so I offer you a few guide­lines in pro­vid­ing the very best respons­es to research tasks you are giv­en.

1. Take the time to understand the question.

In every busi­ness time is mon­ey – so an Analyst’s’ abil­i­ty to lis­ten and sum­ma­rize is just as impor­tant as his or her tech­ni­cal skills. Treat every ques­tion like the dis­cov­ery phase of a project. Make sure you define the objec­tive as well as the para­me­ters (date range, audi­ence, data sources, etc.). Write down your objec­tive along with the question(s) you are going to answer and refer back to what you have writ­ten as you work to make sure you stay on track.

2. Choose the best format to deliver your findings.

Keep in mind that your research and report prepa­ra­tion is meant to be quick­ly under­stood and act­ed on. Do not make your audi­ence sift through spread­sheets and charts to find answers; instead, sum­ma­rize and direct your audience’s atten­tion to your out­comes. Use charts, graphs and spread­sheets to illus­trate your points, not to make them. If your for­mat has not been decid­ed for you (e.g. you are con­tribut­ing to a deck) choose the sim­plest for­mat to con­vey your mes­sage. Will a well writ­ten email work instead of a spread­sheet? Can you sum­ma­rize your find­ings on one spread­sheet tab instead of three?

3. Lay your information out using C-F-C.

Caveats: Give your audi­ence the back­ground infor­ma­tion they need to put your find­ings in the prop­er con­text. Date ranges, seg­ments used, data anom­alies, etc… should all be spelled out so your read­er knows the land­scape of what you are pre­sent­ing.

Find­ings: The foun­da­tion of your research will always be the raw data you pro­vide. There is no room for error when it comes to data integri­ty, so take all pre­cau­tions to ensure you have the right data sources and queries. Share the results of your queries in suc­cinct state­ments that coin­cide with your for­mat.

Con­clu­sions: I hold the view that a Report Writer dis­trib­utes num­bers while an Ana­lyst pro­vides inter­pre­ta­tions. It is unthink­able to share charts or graphs with­out a nar­ra­tive sum­ma­riza­tion of what they rep­re­sent. After all, the pur­pose of gath­er­ing data is so that some­one can take action on it. Always wrap up your find­ings by explain­ing to your audi­ence what your out­comes are and how they can uti­lize them.

A few, final notes:

Remem­ber that peo­ple digest food and infor­ma­tion in chunks, so use bul­lets and out­line forms rather than long nar­ra­tives. Make it your mis­sion to leave your audi­ence feel­ing empow­ered by your find­ings rather than bewil­dered by catch­phras­es.

Last­ly, remem­ber to have fun. As the cel­e­brat­ed author Char­laine Har­ris once said, “if I quit hav­ing fun, then it’s time for me to quit work­ing”. Let your unique per­son­al­i­ty shine through your analy­ses.