Part 1 explored the overall insight analysis cycle. This post unpacks the ‘Analysis’ part.
Often after briefing, analysts go off to crunch the data and it can seem like your project goes into a black box and you don’t know what’s going on until at some point, a powerpoint with pretty graphs appears with some results.
We find that different projects unfold in different ways, but we’re nearly always going through this same process to get from questions to answers.
The first step of sorting out the data can be the hardest and most time consuming.
Working on the data definitions helps get everyone on the same page of what your story will be about (what do you mean by ‘active donor’? Someone giving a gift in the last 2 years, OK, anything else? What about if they engaged in some other way instead, does that change how we consider them?)
Clean datasets are hard to come by, but trash in means trash out so it’s worth at least deciding how good you think the data is and laying out the caveats and knowing your margins of error.
Everyone approaches analysis in their own style. For me there is no abc of data exploration, just like there’s no abc of how to be a detective or write a novel, people doing those things work at their craft and find their own ways and means.
Interpretation is the step many people will miss out, because it’s easy to present observations as though they are answers. Just as when you thrash out questions and hunches with clients you can tap into their gut feel about what’s going on (they do know their activity), when interpreting, check in with your clients for their opinions, I bet they will know something that will help you interpret a trend or other interesting finding.
Telling the story is also an underrated part of the process. You often only get one shot to put your findings across and influence what your clients take forward. Don’t be boring! Don’t hide behind your caveats! Tell the story. Make recommendations backed up by your findings and invite discussion and questioning of what you’ve found. The outcome should be some solid insight to take forward into action.