By Jason Thompson, co-founder, 33 Sticks
We are analysts, we solve problems. While we never face the exact same problem twice, the problem solving process we go through is repeatable. This repeatable framework helps ensure that we are consistently delivering quality insights that are used to solve actual business problems.
This practical approach to solving business problems helps structure what can, at times, be a very daunting task.
In the Discovery phase, we are observers taking note of anything and everything that could be helpful in our analysis. This includes using the website, service, or solution in question, with the intent of understanding the experience of the customer. When the problem exists offline, this often includes going into the retail store or directly interacting with the physical product. This phase also includes an initial data discovery session. It should be noted that during this phase we are simply observing the data without drawing any conclusions or providing any insights.
The Investigate phase is focused on gathering as much information as possible from those either directly or indirectly involved. This would include conducting interviews with key stakeholders, marketers, developers, end users, customers, support reps, etc. In this phase, it is often very helpful to get an outside perspective by conducting in-house user testing or utilizing a service like UserTesting.com.
After we have developed intelligence around the problem through our Discovery and Investigate phases, we begin to narrow our focus by identifying a hypothesis and brainstorming the best analysis path to take. Knowing which paths to pursuing can often be a very overwhelming experience. To help identify the best analysis paths to pursue, we often make use of a technique called mind mapping. The mind map below is an example that was produced out of a brainstorming session in which we were trying to solve a problem with low conversion rates for an ECommerce client.
In the Analysis phase, we gather and analyze data to test our hypothesis. Many inexperienced analysts tend to jump directly to this phase, however it is important to remember that every successful analysis begins with successful planning and intelligence gathering. And while it is tempting immediately to broadcast insights that come out of the Analysis phase, you should slow down, take a deep breath, and test and retest your results to ensure they are factual and backed by correct data. Nothing will cause others to doubt your insights quicker than a miscalculated metric that leads to an invalid conclusion.
It is not until we reach the Insights phase that we we start to put together our final report. A few key items to remember when presenting your insights:
- Tailor your presentation to your audience – Not knowing your audience can lead to failure even if your insights are valid.
- Start with the insight – It’s tempting to save the big reveal for the end of your presentation. Don’t. Clearly state your findings right upfront.
- Show your work – While you don’t necessarily need to show your work directly in your presentation, you should make it easy for others to question and test your findings by providing your data and calculations. If you hide your work, you will create distrust in your insights.
- Be prepared to backup your claims – Know what you are presenting. You will be often be challenged on your findings and you must be prepared to defend your insights and recommendations.
- Propose potential next steps – It is often argued that analysts are only to present insights but should stop short of presenting potential solutions. This is nonsense, a skilled analyst is perfectly positioned to present potential next steps that could be taken to solve the problem. A way to soften this message is to present next steps in the form of a test – “Our insights show issues with converting search traffic that lands on the homepage, we can potentially address this issue by running the following tests…”
We have developed this analysis framework after working directly with hundreds of clients to solve real problems they were facing in the operation of their businesses and while it may not be a perfect solution we feel it provides a structured approach to solving problems that has added to the success of our company and our clients.