What is ‘analysis’ and why do most ‘analysts’ not do it?

In the Consumer Product Goods (CPG) world, there are a lot of analysts: supply chain analysts; sales analysts; shelf analysts; category analysts; transportation analysts... you get the idea.  For many people the 'analyst' role is their first step onto the managerial ladder.  It is their job to learn the business,  'crunch' numbers and one day, with hard work and a little luck, get promoted to a non-analytic, managerial role.

Knowing this career path, their managers recruit for skills and attitudes that reflect managerial and leadership potential (results focus, initiative, collaborative team working and initiative).  Rarely do they look for strong analytical skills (math, statistics, logical reasoning, systems engineering, management science and operations research) and as most organizations provide limited career paths for people with such skills, perhaps it is best not to recruit them into a dead-end role.

For many analysts, much of the work is focused around report generation which is manual and repetitive in nature ( run/copy/paste/format) and leaves little time for investigative, analytical work to comment on the reports, let alone investigate why the report says what it does.  The analyst stays stuck in this rut because they do not possess the skills and perhaps the time to find a way out.

It should not come as a surprise then that while analysts can be very bright, very energetic and looking forward to a great career in your company, they may not be very strong at 'analysis': framing the business issue to be solved; extracting the maximum useful insight from available data; and making recommendations as to next steps.

There are certainly other ways of thinking about what 'analysis' is, but I think this serves for now.  Of course it also gives you an idea why some people strong in analytic skills don't always do good analysis either :-)  In my experience, many lack the interest in the business issue they are working on, being enamored with the analytic process rather than the end-result.

Finding the combination of skill-sets you need to do this work well is tough and unless you have a very large organization, maintaining a critical mass of these skills is likely to be a problem too - it may be necessary to buy it in.

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