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How to get started with data analysis

I recently heard Paul Young, author of “The Shack” say that behind each of his books was a question.  I just finished a meeting with an executive and one of the questions he asked was “How do companies start with data analysis?” 

We talked about that and other data topics, so I wanted to sum it up. Companies will get into data analysis when they have problems answering three basic questions: Where have we been? Where are we now? Where are we going?

The first of these, “where have we been?” is asked when a Company needs to see their past performance. For instance they want to compare last years to this years sales. This simple business question usually results in managers and executives spending time exporting data from systems into spreadsheets to try to get answers. When someone uses a spreadsheet of data from one system and matches it up with a spreadsheet from another system, then the user is creating a bridge between different data silos. The company as a whole can spend a lot of time and energy to get the answers they need. A reporting system can help automate that process, bridge the systems and save users time getting them answers they need. The first step is usually a simple reporting system.

The next question is “where are we now?” This question arises when companies may have a basic reporting system to give them answers next business day or at the end of each month but they need data faster. The company starts to understand the time value of data and wants to speed that system up to get near real-time answers. This is when companies invest to build analytic systems that cross the data between the data silos. Systems like this help the company understand the who, what, where and how of the events that generate the data.

The third level is “where are we going?” At this level companies may have near real time systems and they want predictive analytics to see where sales are headed in the future. What supplies will they need next month? How many people will buy our product? If people buy product ‘A’, would they like ‘B’ or ‘C’ to go with it?

No matter which level your company is that, we believe that every company has data and we can help you use it. No matter if your questions are about the past, present or future there are tools, methodologies and data geeks to help you get answers.

EDIT: This had been a draft since 2017 so I’m pushing it out the door. Allen

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