Do Analysis, That Matters!!!

An analyst working hard to find patterns
Photo by Adam Nowakowski on Unsplash

As per wikipedia ‘Analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance into smaller parts in order to gain a better understanding of it’

In business, we want to gain a better understanding of any situation or any problem to make a logical decision that would benefit our business. Business leaders and managers ask a lot of questions to understand the situation or problem at hand. They want to make every decision that is backed by data and analysis, that’s the reason ‘data skills’ are in high demand these days.

I have been working as a data analyst for more than seven years now. I worked in various companies and always got to work in either business teams or captive units of MNCs. As an analyst, you are not supposed to pull data and share with your stakeholders. You are supposed to be a thought partner of your stakeholders and contribute with insights that can enable them to take better decisions.

In a changing business environment, it’s crucial to have full understanding and context of the problem to do any data analysis. To gather full context, a data analyst must ask right questions before looking at any data for analysis. Asking ‘why are we doing this analysis?’ doesn’t actually provide the critical context that an analyst must have before doing any analysis.

You can’t get the right answer, if you’re asking the wrong questions.

What is critical context?

Critical context is a pre analysis checklist that helps you to find the useful and correct number for the question that business want to answer. Here is the checklist that you need to complete before doing any analysis:

What question are we trying to answer?

What decision are we trying to make?

Which number will answer that question in a way that can help us to make that decision?

What values of that number will change our decision?

Let me show how you can use this template to gather critical context with real life example below.

You get a request from marketing manager to analyse the performance of a campaign they recently ran to acquire new customers.

Now you have to make sure you have critical context before starting any investigation related to the campaign. I’d use the critical context template here to ask relevant questions.

What question are we trying to answer here? — Do we want to know the number of customer acquired due to campaign are higher than customer’s organic growth? Do we want to know the return of investment for that campaign?…

What decision are we trying to make? — If the number of customer acquired are higher than organic growth, what is the next step? Are we going to analyse why our campaign worked that way? Are we going to extend the campaign to meet a certain target?…

Which numbers will answer that question in a way that can help us to make that decision? — What are the key numbers or metrics you are looking for and in what interval? Do you want to compare pre and post campaign period? Do you want to go back a year for comparison to remove seasonality impact?…

What values of that numbers will change our decision? What do we do differently if customer acquired are way higher than expected? Is there any threshold we don’t care about (e.g. if it’s not more than 5% of organic growth)?…

These are the example of questions an analyst must ask to get the critical context of the problem.

Critical context also helps you to prioritise as it becomes easy to evaluate:

Whether the analysis is worth doing it?

What’s the right way to do it?

Whether it’s already been done?

Whether you’re the right person to do this?

How can you add maximum value?

How can you minimise your efforts?

Prioritisation is how you maximise value addition with your work and protect your work/life balance.

Hope this article and critical context template is helpful.

I write practical advice, best practices for data analysts to make their role more impactful in organisations. Please write back if you want to read about any specific topic.

Until then…




Data Analyst by profession, Interested in Psychology & Nature, loves travelling and cooking.

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Shubham Gupta

Shubham Gupta

Data Analyst by profession, Interested in Psychology & Nature, loves travelling and cooking.

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