Preventing Analysis Paralysis in the Digital Age

Analysis paralysis or paralysis by analysis. Make your pick. In the modern digital era whereby all business activities have one or more connections to a digital property, it is often difficult to determine the where, what, how and why of what should be analysed.

If your responsibilities include analyst, product manager, brand owner or campaign manager (to name a few), chances are that somewhere someone has come to you with something that they want you to analyse. The inner analyst in me would typically take the piece of work and start analysing it to produce an insightful result. That wasn’t too hard, right?

Yes and No. Yes it might have been one bespoke piece of analysis that was easy to churn out. Your report landed in someone’s inbox, they (hopefully) read it and you continue on your daily tasks. Wait, what about the no part this answer?

Take a step back – always ask why!?

If I have learnt anything over the past couple of years is that your life will eventually become super busy if you have multiple teams and people bombarding you with bespoke analysis tasks. More often than not (in my experience), these bespoke points of analysis (reports) gets churned out only to land up in a super crowded inbox.

Take a step back and ask why? If you are a small or big brand, chances are you want to know as much about your business activities as possible. That is fair, but, having a gazillion different metrics and KPIs that need to be measured will easily land you up in that magical wonderland where analytical reports are churned out, but the essence of the tasks is lost.

But what do you mean by the essence is lost (I hear you ask)?

Analytics should be a story

Whether you are a SQL boffin or an excel ninja, to you that detailed report with graphs after graphs of awesome analytics is indeed, well, awesome. Your bosses have set up KPIs and metrics and some other fancy data points that they want to measure and you ticked all their boxes. Good job?

Well, not exactly. If you have a 100 slide presentation with KPIs left, right and centre, chances are you are not going to captivate your audience or bosses attention. Yes, you might have a lot of metrics and KPIs to address, but take a step back and map out how they fit together.

Carefully sit and plan a story that you want to tell through your analytics, and then map it out. Stories often enable someone to associate and/or draw analogies with the detailed analytics that you are trying to explain. But what if some of the KPIs and metrics that I need to report on somehow feel disjoint from the rest?

Be confident enough to ask why!

I have encountered quite a few tasks whereby the vast amount of KPIs and metrics often leaves you in an analytics induced state of paralysis. The worst part is not having any single source of reference to contextualise all of these metrics and KPIs.

When planning the story that you want to tell with your analytics, don’t be afraid to ask people why are we measuring this, or asking what the relevance is. I too have inherited projects whereby the stakeholders have changed and somewhere along the line, certain KPIs and metrics have become redundant, yet no one knew why and where this occurred.

What if no one can answer me?

Assess, Eliminate, Propose and Implement

If there are KPIs and metrics for days, take a step back and contextualise where each of those fits into what the business wants to achieve, and more importantly, how the analysis that you have to perform will feed back into improving those initiatives in the future.

Note to self, if analytics is not going to create a feedback mechanism, then why are you analysing anything in the first place?

If certain KPIs and metrics are seemingly redundant, take some time to understand why, and then propose changes or alternatives, depending on the requirements of the internal business or client. It is okay for KPIs and metrics to be changed from time to time. After all, your business is adapting, so should your metrics as well.

Last words

Don’t be stuck reporting on a million different things, if those points of analysis are not going to create value, insight and feedback which can be used to improve. Small and big brands alike, like to analyse multiple KPIs and metrics just to satisfy someone’s reporting requirements, but this will inevitably lead to missing golden opportunities.

Don’t be scared to ask why, after all, it is human nature to be curious.

If you have any questions, suggestions, comments or require help, feel free to get in touch.

Stop that analysis paralysis! 🙂