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Thought provoking blog as always.... :-)

I wanted to note that "exploratory analysis," which you define here as "without specific business requirements," is NOT the same as "Exploratory Data Analysis" or EDA. EDA was coined by Tukey in his book of the same name. Essentially, EDA always has context (a question), and the idea of "exploring the data" is basically to visualize to understand the relationships exposed in order to frame a model. In other words, fit the model to the data, not the data to the model. As you know I wrote about EDA fairly elaborately and for the first time in the context of digital analytics in both of my books. ;-)

To your point, I've always called analysis "without specific business requirements" to be "observational analysis" so as not to confuse it with EDA. On the idea of "observational analysis," I tend to agree with your statements. It is unlikely that any stakeholder is going to care about some observed relationship in the data unless tied back to what I always say: 1) generate profitable revenue (and thus growth) or 2) reduce cost (which can boost profitability).

If an observational analysis is done to that/those goal(s), then it inherently will always have context within a business requirement (i.e. to create value). But the risk can be that the analysis does not meet expectations or is deemed to have resulted in conclusions that are a lower priority (forest vs trees). Thus, I think "observational analysis" is inappropriate at worst and unnecessary at best unless a stakeholder has asked specifically for an opinion and some ideas based on observations you think are interesting (which happens...).


Hello Gary,
thank you very much for this post.

I agree that its important to prioritize the analytics project. We prioritize by Revenue impact, complexity of implementation and estimated time.

But sadly I see a lot of analytics projects with high potential for example in increasing revenue which end up in the drawer. As you said these were structural problems and political problems.

In this case its a huge problem for the analyst. He can not improve the website. So what is left is more implementation work and less improvement work. Which lowers the value of the analyst in my eyes.

As you said its important to discuss with the stakeholders in a project the following point:
you should have both a clear path and an explicit plan to operationalization.

Gerhard Klassen

I got your point that we should really focus on a result-oriented or business driven analytic where we just don't explore things but execute decisions in order to really attain the best possible result. It's one good way in order to perfectly do the things needed to be done.

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