Data Analysis: Reaching New (Data) Plateaus
There's no way around it: Data analysis is hard. The data is never clean enough and most times the deeper you dig, the more inconsistencies you uncover. If you’re joining multiple data sources, they never fit together exactly how you want them to.
There can be more art than science in creating a data source that you trust and what on the surface is a simple request very rarely is. I can’t even count the times that I’ve put together a dataset only to look at the results and say, “Whaaaat? How is this not working?”
I say this, not ONLY to drum up sympathy for the data nerds out there (don’t let me stop you!), but to show how easy it can be to get lost in the trees and not see the forest.
When you spend so much time focused on the minutia of process, it is easy to lose sight of the results.
You need to take a step back and look at things from a higher level. Sure, maybe this project took three months and had you pulling your hair out, but now you have something that never existed before. Maybe now you can attribute media spend directly to earned revenue when before you could only work on assumptions and vague correlations. Maybe now you have access to sales data enhanced with CRM data and can see buying trends across different demographics and personas.
This was driven home for me recently when we were asked for success metrics for a particular client.
The behind-the-scenes work for this client has been intense. Many disparate data sources (most of which were not designed to speak to one another) needed to be brought together into a single source of truth. It was a slog, and is still a work in progress, but we have something now that we can use for real insights and strategic decision making. That was lost on me until I took a step back and had a good look at what we could do with the data now that we couldn’t before we started. I was too inwardly focused on what still had to be done, what didn’t quite work how we wanted it to. It is easy to become frustrated by the hurdles and count them as failures, and I needed to balance it by truly looking at how far we’d come.
The point is, celebrate the successes and operationalize everything you learn in the process for the next project.
The goal is progress over perfection.
Things will never be perfect. There will always be glitches and you will always need to perform quality control. It’s just the nature of the beast. Keep moving forward and reach for those new plateaus and you’ll have accomplished something you can be proud of. I think the Meat Puppets said it best in their song Plateau:
When you're finished with the mop then you can stop
And look at what you've done
The plateau's clean no dirt to be seen
And the work it took was fun
Our Data Strategy and Analytics Supervisor Chris Grant connected with U.S. News and World Report’s Erik Sherman about data-driven business and the benefits of having a Tableau-expert on your team. Read his opinions, alongside fellow marketing professionals across the county, IN THIS STORY.
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Chris Grant is DS+CO’s data strategy and analytics supervisor who builds smart campaigns and valuable business insights.