Reporting vs Analytics

The What vs The Why

Sometimes I encounter misperception between reporting and analytics. I think the confusion exists because both reporting and analytics can derive from the same source data. To make a good analysis, you might leverage a presentation of data that looks an awful lot like a report. The main difference is:

Reports give you the What.  Analytics give you the Why.

Typically, reporting is sufficient to give you a snapshot of useful information whenever you may want to see it. It can be invaluable for operational execution–whether daily, weekly, monthly, etc. There’s a flavor of this tactical reporting intended for the printed page, which not only becomes out-of-date immediately after it is printed, but it can also become a dead end when someone inevitably asks you why something in the report is what it is.

But the Why is what is strategically important. That’s where analytics comes in. Analysis itself is akin to an investigation. By interacting with the data (drilling, filtering, pivoting, etc.), cause and effect can become clearer.

Analytics can seem challenging. Often times, it involves multiple, disparate data sources. It may involve more data than you can confidently manage in tools like Excel. You may think that you need an army of data scientists or a PhD in statistics to decipher how X correlates with Y. You may not know how best to visualize the data.

Any of these things can contribute to a company’s reluctance to embrace analytics. Whatever the reason may be, one thing to remember is that good analytics should be actionable. If you take a report, and start asking “why” enough times to the data that you are looking at, you may eventually discover what you should do to influence that data, which in turn may contribute to positive changes in your company’s business processes. Then (BOOM!), you’ll feel the excitement of being able to look back and realize that you just practiced analytics.

Not sure where to start?

First be sure that you or your partners and tools are collecting and storing data that you think matters to you. Even if you’re not sure how you’ll use it yet, you’ll be holding an asset that your competitors don’t have.

If you’re ready to take the next step with some interesting data, let’s talk!