Analysis vs. Reporting

Don't be boring
No matter your job, be an analyst. You'll be happier.

Almost every professional job falls into one of two categories: analysis or reporting. Sometimes this distinction is explicit. Most of the time it is not.

This might require defining the terms to make the point.

Reporting
Relaying information for others to interpret

Analysis
Interpreting information and providing recommendations



The key difference between the two is who interprets the data. In your job are you interpreting information or are you just relaying it?

Reporting is Boring

If you find yourself doing reporting, you will be bored. You will feel under-appreciated. You will finally burn out. Reporting tools are a commodity. When people are used for reporting, they are doing the same thing a machine can do. You are a messenger and nothing more. You probably find yourself wondering why people are making the wrong decisions with the information you relay. You probably mutter in the halls about how silly their decisions are, how uninspired.

If you are doing analysis, you feel like a change agent. You feel empowered and valuable. As long as you are putting your recommendations into language your audience can understand, they will listen. Your frustrations stem from the fact that people aren't incorporating your recommendations quickly enough. But the analysis itself is exciting and invigorating. (And if you can figure out how to craft your message to appeal to your audience's interests, they will pay more attention anyway.)


This Applies to YOU

This applies to you
Here's the key: no matter what your position is, you can turn it into the role of an analyst. Most of the time if you aren't being asked to do analysis it's because your audience doesn't know what that would look like. They don't know how to ask.

When you provide analysis they will listen because they don't have all the information to make the best decision—and they know it. They know they are missing critical context, but they don't know what it is. You are closer to the facts than they are. You know how to interpret them better than they do. Again, they don't know how to ask for what they need.

Analysis is how you make a difference. It fills a need that your audience didn't realize they had. Reporting is not. In fact, if you continue reporting, you will be replaced. Something or somebody can do it better than you for less money. They can package the reporting more nicely or provide it more promptly. Reporting is a game you cannot win. And reporting means you are an order-taker.

Analysis puts you into the room with the decision-makers. It makes you a valued contributor. It provides a service that cannot be outsourced as easily, because it requires insight.


Only One Risk

Analysis is more work than reporting. It requires creativity and curiosity. An analyst looks at information and asks, "So what?" (A good analyst will ask that question several times in a row.) Then he relays the implications and suggestions for how to address those implications. This means adding context to information. This means that if you don't know the context, you need to figure it out.

Analysis takes longer than reporting. It's harder. But if you don't transition from reporting, you will find yourself bored and discouraged until you burn out.

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