Over the past few months I've come across quite a bit of content online regarding tips for web analytics, data analysis, and big data. One of the biggest changes in data analysis over the past decade has been a shift from primary research to one with more involvement in web analytics. Big data needs to be integrated into your data analysis approach. The shift is from "finding enough data" to "not being overwhelmed by the amount of data." Although the analysis process and techniques can prove to be very different, the goal remains the same - use data to guide strategy and decision-making.
Through all of the online research and articles I've come across, there have been a few great quotes on web analytics. Here are 6 that have stuck with me:
"The price of light is less than the cost of darkness." - Arthur C. Nielsen. This goes without saying and is one of the longest battles in the analytics and marketing research world. Is the investment in the analytics worth the pay off? It's the most basic ROI question for businesses. Nielsen argues, and I agree that spending the extra time and resources on insight gained from analytics is well worth the effort.
"If you do not know how to ask the right question, you know nothing" - W. Edward Deming. One of the skills of a good data analyst is curiosity. You need to know when to dig deeper and explore. You also have to want to explore. Numbers are just numbers and without interpretation, assumptions, and context provided by asking the right questions. If you don't, your data will lack the insight and attention it needs. When writing your reports, put on your reader's or client's shoes and ask the natural questions they would ask: "why does this matter?", "what does this mean?", and "what can we do with this information?"
"Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all." - Charles Babbage. Making assumptions and taking action on a small data set is better than sitting still and doing nothing. Even if you head down the wrong path you will learn what worked and what didn't which will give you even more data to make the next turn. Here's an analogy: "It's similar to getting in the car deciding one morning to drive to Houston, Texas without a map. In fact, let's say you are racing your neighbors to Houston. So you sit it in your driveway with your car running and watch your neighbors take off and get a head start while you wait for a map to guide you. It could be a long wait. Another option is to take action and simply "drive south." By doing this you'll be in better shape 5 hours from now wouldn't you? Along the way and as you get closer, you'll see signs that can help better direct you towards Texas and Houston in particular. Doing this you may not beat all of your neighbors who had access to better navigational resources, or faster cars, or more experienced drivers. But you finished faster than if you had stayed in your driveway because you didn't feel you had enough information to act."
"If statistics are boring, you've got the wrong numbers." - Edward Tufte. This could be biased coming from a research guy but I agree. Nothing can prove more valuable or more insightful than a number for your customer. With so many unanswered questions out there for businesses, numbers help provide facts and context to these questions.
"Data are just summaries of thousands of stories – tell a few of those stories to help make the data meaningful." - Chip & Dan Heath, Authors of Made to Stick, Switch. Although a number by itself can provide compelling, even more powerful is a set of numbers tied together to tell a story. A data point is simply a snapshot in time from a user (e.g., a page view, or website usage, etc.) Tying together several metrics like page views can begin to tell a larger story of a visit, session or path. Tying together several unique visits can tell a larger story of a user experience (UX.) Better understanding the differences in UX can tell a larger story about overall loyalty and a true customer experience (CX.) It goes on and on, all beginning with a single data point where you decided to "peel back the onion" a bit.
"The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight." - Carly Fiorina. Similar to a prior quote, data should just be the beginning of your story, not the end. Data is the foundation to generate information needed to refine strategy. As a data analyst, it's your job to provide some interpretation and get that information in the hands of people who can make an impact with it.
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