What is the purpose of analytics?

It’s an important question because for different people in different industries, data analysis can mean very different things. Even within a single company that relies heavily on marketing, the very purpose of analytics can vary greatly depending on the group and the need. Decisions that guide long-term customer strategy require long-term thinking and their own kinds of analytical output. Decisions that are more immediate require more actionable results in order to make a timely and effective tactical decision. Outlining these distinctions helps to guide your analysis and maximize the impact of your work.

The two different needs, strategic and tactical, require very different analyses. As analytics technologies mature, the differences between the two are even more clearly defined. Strategic decisions will always benefit from data visualization, where results can be expounded upon with trend lines and charts. These decisions are helpful in long-term planning, where it can be less critical to tease out the effects of minute details and much more important to convey a greater message in the data.

This is different from tactical decisions, and new technologies highlight these differences. With advanced analytics tools the output can become part of a complete and automated workflow, where speed of analysis and prescriptive outputs mean that tactical decisions happen in real time. Particularly where prescriptive analytics enables data automation, the immediate nature of these decisions makes them more important than ever. Here, data too complex to conform to a two-dimensional graph can be acted upon in fractions of a second, triggering an ad, rerouting a customer call, or rebooting a critical device.

As the internet of things becomes more reality than talking point, actionable data analysis will become critical to the way we live and work. Having a clear distinction between tactical and strategic analytics helps give executives and managers a better idea of how analytics resources are applied and what benefit can be expected from their output. So what kind of analysis are you doing, strategic or tactical?