Data analytics has become one of the most critical business and technology differentiators for companies, allowing them to obtain keen insights into nearly any area of their operations and create a competitive advantage.
The most challenging aspect of incorporating data analysis into a company, after getting your hands on a data set, is getting started and avoiding beginner’s errors along the way. From scrambled columns to unintelligible field names, every time you analyze data, you’ll come across a challenge regardless of whether you are a beginner or an experienced data reporter.
In this article, we explore the five most common data reporting mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. You Don’t Clean Your Data.
Collecting data takes time, and it can be tempting to jump right in and get to work as soon as you get your hands on a data set. However, this is the most common mistake data reporters make.
Instead, make sure to spend the first few hours cleaning up the data and making sure it’s usable. There are free tools out there that allow you to filter out any minor inconsistencies between fields, such as OpenRefine. Separating first and last names into distinct fields or splitting entire addresses into manageable chunks are also common tasks when cleaning data sets.
2. You Do Too Much at a Time.
Double-checking data analysis can be incredibly tough. With this in mind, working slowly and taking frequent pauses is strongly recommended. Everyone works at their own pace, but experts recommend taking a ten-minute break for every hour worked.
Despite all the advanced tools available, once you make a mistake, it will be hard to figure out where you made it. And, in such cases, the most common solution is starting from scratch. To prevent this from happening, make sure to work slowly and take frequent breaks.
3. You Don’t Create Backups.
Data analysis is one of the only sorts of reporting where you can lose all of your hard-won achievements if you save after making a mistake. Make a folder for the project and label each successive version of the data with a number and the date to avoid data disasters.
Most modern real-time BI tools do keep backups of previous versions, but the user still needs to go back several steps to get the ‘old’ data back and then repeat the process where the mistake or unwanted change had been made.
To avoid this, never permanently alter your original data set. Instead, save major changes as new copies. This way, you’ll always have a clean version to refer to.
4. You Forget About Data Visualization.
After crunching the easy numbers, it can be tricky to tell which direction to explore next when creating a data report. It is advisable to create data visualizations, such as graphs and charts, to spot patterns and see trends that numbers alone wouldn’t reveal so easily.
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5. You Don’t Ask for Help.
Even if you are the only data reporter in your company, there are lots of resources available that can help you out if you get stuck on a project. Most apps feature online tutorials or user communities where you can find helpful advice.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to other data reporters on social media if you have some tech-related queries. Furthermore, notable tech reporters frequently share advice on their profiles and may be willing to address inquiries via email as well.
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