Taking Action Is the Most Important Step of Utilizing Data


As a data analyst, I work hard to convey the importance of utilizing data every day, from department operations to marketing efforts, to getting to know your members and your community better. I’ll spend days getting to know a data set, digging through hundreds of thousands of rows of data to uncover truths and determine any variables that may impact results of an analysis or the accuracy of calculations used to convey findings.

Then comes the process of transforming these thousands of numbers into easy-to-read charts so that those reading the study don’t need to spend days trying to understand what I found. At the end of this tedious process, there’s the process of organizing all the information into a report and handing it off to department heads, colleagues, CEOs, and credit union staff with the offer to go through findings together.

Don’t collect data, act on it

After of all this work, I get a compliment on the study, maybe a small handful of questions on some of the numbers or calculations used, and that’s usually the end of the story. There are rarely important questions being asked. Questions that should be and need to be asked in order for anyone to get the most out of their data analysis. Questions such as:

  • What do we do next?
  • How can this knowledge empower us to perform better?
  • What actions should we take as a result of this analysis?

It’s important to note that utilizing data doesn’t just mean collecting data, hoarding data, or even analyzing data. It means collecting data for analysis with the intent to act on the findings from said analysis, and then analyzing the results of these actions to determine how to further improve in the future or decide if what you did was worth repeating.

It’s my job as an analyst to drive this home, by not only putting the recommended action items into each analysis I perform, but also holding teams to these actions. Did you make any changes since we last looked at the numbers? If the answer is no, it is highly unlikely that we’ll see any large differences in the next analysis. While I don’t mind looking at the same data set repeatedly, how much more exciting is it when we get to see positive changes because of the actions we take?

Your data analyst is here to help!

This also means that as an analyst, it’s part of my job to act as a consultant. I am expected to offer advice on what to do with a set of numbers, not just state what the numbers are. Not only am I doing the heavy lifting on the analysis side, but I’m also consistently looking at the data from the perspectives of what my clients might ask or need. “Is this lower or higher than the average and what can be done to improve this?” or “is this trending downward or upward, and how do we get this to move in the desired direction?” Coming from the marketing world, training my mind to think in this way as a data analyst took very little effort.

If I see that a product or service is underperforming, I’ll dive into the members that currently hold this product vs those it’s recently been marketed to. I’ll look at the performance over time to see when marketing this product would be the most ideal to launch fresh efforts on, and which channels would work best for this communication. When I see that there are large events impacting staff operations, I think of ways to be proactive to drive members toward self-services before they call in or try to visit a branch for help. If I see something in an operation that could be shortened or seems redundant, I offer up an existing solution to cut down on time and improve accuracy.

There’s almost always a potential action item that can be taken from looking at a data set, even if that action is to keep doing what you’re already doing. The most important part of utilizing data is to take action on what you find. If you’re ever unsure of what action to take, ask your analyst – they likely already have a few ideas.  


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