Data Analysts are the detectives of the data world, obtaining meaningful insights from the stacks of data that anyone can build, but few can comprehend. Similar to scientific research, data is gathered (or mined) and the scientist (or analyst) then puts these findings into context for us. In a nutshell, data analysts organise reams of information in order to observe patterns and analyse trends that are specific to your company — but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Many companies gather data as it is well understood how much insight it can provide into your users and overall market, yet few know how to draw those insights from that rich pool of data. In this article we will explore what a data analyst does, and by doing so we will unearth the wealth of information that analysts can reveal through your company’s stored data sets.
The role of a data analyst is far more varied than simply observing sets of coding; they must know how to collect, fragment, clean, merge and analyse data among other important responsibilities. It is a good idea to understand the true scope of a data analyst in order to ensure you are getting the most of your data, so we will explain what is involved.
- Data mining from primary and secondary sources:
- Primary data is collected through first-hand accounts, including interviews, surveys, polls or focus groups.
- Secondary data sources can be gathered internally or externally. Internal secondary data concerns sources such as sales reports, emails, HR data and so on; external secondary data, however, deals with information including mass media or government statistics.
- Analysts slice and dice data:
- Using this method, data analysts reduce the body of data into smaller parts or examine it from different viewpoints in order to yield more information.
- Cleaning data:
- Corrupt, incomplete or inaccurate records are detected through the data cleansing of a record set, table or database. These issues are known collectively as dirty or coarse data, which may then be modified, replaced or deleted.
- Merging data:
- After it has been cleaned up, the data is then merged into a single, comprehensive repository. This acts as a single source of truth, from which all insights are drawn and can be verified.
- Analysis and interpretation:
- Various statistical methods and tools are used to analyse the data, and analysts must interpret their findings objectively and without any bias.
- Identifying trends and new opportunities:
- Data can reveal the most popular product, or show that a particular web page is causing a lot of users to exit the site; data can show how long users spend interacting with you, the average wait time before a message is read and replied to; the possibilities are endless. And all the answers are held within the data you gather from your platforms.
- Process improvement:
- Various tools and techniques are used by the data analyst to improve the various processes that take place on your website, app or programme.
- Data reporting:
- The objective results are delivered to the project manager; the type of delivery can vary depending on the project. For instance, a table of results may be appropriate to express the findings in one project, whereas another project may be more clearly presented through a graph.
- Design, create and maintain databases:
- A database management system is used to organise your data. This provides a rich store of past and present data, however it must be effectively maintained. Data cleansing should take place periodically, to ensure there is no erroneous, incomplete or damaged data that could potentially skew the results.
This may seem like a great deal of work for one project, yet the outcome provides the wealth of information that ultimately makes data analysts so sought after. With so many tools and techniques involved, and with correct and secure storage being more important than ever before, hiring a skilled data analyst has to be recommended.
How Data is Unlocked
There are multiple tools and techniques that data analysts may use, but ultimately what they are trying to accomplish is listed below:
Breaking Data Barriers
A well-organised team creates or improves processes within what is termed the ‘environment’. This environment is essentially a centralised store of all data. These processes can consequently generate insights quickly, reducing the amount of time the data takes to be read in the future.
Data holds a great deal of information, and in addition to providing answers to your questions, the data set can sometimes reveal answers to questions you may not think to ask.
Continuous Data Flow
Allowing the continuous updating of data keeps findings up-to-date, provided these data sets are being analysed and stored correctly. Storage within a central repository system will maintain a continuous data flow for faster reporting, dashboarding and Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) processes.
Data is fragmented within the central repository, and broken down into elements which are more easily organised and understood.
Encouraging Data Culture
Within the workplace, it is beneficial to train employees on how to interpret data sets and insights. The more team members that understand this process, the more questions and therefore insights the company can draw from their data.
Data analysts ultimately investigate the data, identifying trends and patterns, and generating meaningful insight from raw data. Data analysis will become a mainstream business tool in the near future; for now, however, it provides a vital business tool that helps those in the know adapt their businesses to better suit their market.
However, it is important to note that data analysts also provide correct and secure data storage; a necessity in the Digital Age, in order to protect your organisation and maintain customer confidentiality. While identifying key insights from your market and analysing your performance, data analysts can also maintain databases to avoid errors or incomplete files, all while correctly storing and protecting your data.
Living in the Digital Age, data analysis will only increase in popularity as it offers vast information on user groups, in quantities that have never before been possible to gather. If you’d like to gain insights to help inform your business decisions, visit Pangaea X today.