This morning I read a blog post on Adobe’s Digital Marketing blog entitled “What’s the difference between reporting and analysis”. Adobe’s digital blog is always a good source of knowledge for all things mobile, social and search.
I was instantly intrigued by this post because I find myself trying to answer the question all the time. So much of what we do at eSpatial is focused on turning analysis and reporting into action.
However, I was a little disappointed at the end of the post as it didn’t satiate my initial interest. So it encouraged me to “analyze” the topic in greater detail.
What’s the difference anyway?
I was really hoping for an answer to the question – What exactly is the difference between reporting and analysis? It might be considered an academic question but it’s not something people consider too often.
So I delved a little further.
Google tells me that analysis is:
“Detailed examination of the elements or structure of something, typically as a basis for discussion or interpretation.”
Reporting is defined as:
“Giving a spoken or written account of something that one has observed, heard, done, or investigated.”
If someone had asked me to provide a distinction I probably would have said something like this: “When you analyze you are attempting to turn data and information into insight, when you are reporting you are communicating that insight as knowledge.”
Definitions are all well and good but what exactly is the distinction here?
I think the keyword in the definition above is “basis”. When you analyze you are taking something apart with the goal of gaining a deeper understanding and using that understanding to your advantage.
When you are reporting you are doing one thing – story telling. You are giving a “spoken or written account” of your analysis. Of course I would expand that definition to include “spoken, written and visual account”.
You should never turn up to a meeting or a presentation with an analysis; you should come with a report. People with limited time are not interested in the complexities of your methodologies they want the key points, they want the story.
For example, this post might be considered the “report” on my “analysis” of the subject. I am not providing my searches for the definitions, how I came across the blog post in the first place, my thought process and material for writing. I’m simply presenting the story.
Finally, there was one other element of the Adobe post that caught my attention:
“The goal of this blog is not to say that reporting does not have a role, but rather to make the point that reporting by itself is just numbers. Without an understanding of the big picture, you can’t rely on individual reports to make your decisions.”
I would completely disagree with this statement. While an understanding of the big picture is essential, reporting doesn’t have to be just numbers. An effective report has the ability to communicate the complexity and multidimensionality of the analysis without overwhelming the audience.
Good reporting is good story telling and good story telling combines visuals, words and numbers.