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Knowledge is Power

DATE: February 16, 2021


Picture if you will a special operative who has been given the directive of establishing communication between generals on the field of battle. These generals are from different countries and speak different languages, but their ultimate goal is the same – securing their own victories to help the allies as a whole to achieve the overall victory.  The operative’s job is to make sure that each general is able to take what they see and make some key decisions about it over time for the improvement of their troops.  And being dropped into the middle of this war without the knowledge of who the generals are, except perhaps their names, what their directives are, and how these directives are being communicated is quite the spot.  In this war, I am that operative and the department heads I am tasked to help are the generals.  And in order to achieve my own successes to make sure that they can achieve theirs takes some doing, and can be summarized in the following steps.

Access their data

If I am to help these generals with information, I have to be able to access what they have.  The more I can access, the better equipped I am to handle their needs.  However, as these leaders are from different countries, some feel that I have to be put through the wringer to be sure I am competent to even have a peek.  In one particular case, I only recently was granted access to a general’s database, as they have merely thrown data my way in the form of a file download since I started my recent post several years ago.  Even at that, it was a bare-bones set that I could use for only the most basic of information, making it difficult to relay any details to the other generals in the field.  To be a strong analyst, access to all of the pertinent data is required.  This does not have to include everything contained within the database, but should be complete enough to help answer any and all questions that may arise on a day-to-day basis from the other allied generals.  Without it, sharing of vital information cannot occur.

Understand their data

If area 1 is all well and good, and I am able to have access to the full set of relevant data from each ally, it does me no good unless these generals or their subordinate can help me to decode it.  I have to have access to what these generals know.  Having a 10-digit code in my list doesn’t do me any good unless I can know what it represents within the data.  But even then, how does this code relate to the rest of the data?  How do these things relate to one another?  Gaining an understanding of how these generals’ troops operate on a day-to-day basis is key to making sense out of the data that I receive.  The general I discussed in area 1 that was resistant to the request for data was also very hesitant to relay the means by which they report their numbers internally.  For some time, I had to guess how indicators within the data could be used to produce the bottom line.  Once that finally came, I could at least provide the same bottom-line numbers to the other allies more quickly.  To add value to my position as an analyst, I have to know how the business of these leaders is run to help me to make sense out of the data I receive.

Combine their data

Some analysts are fortunate in that they only have one general to whom they report.  This also facilitates their access to their country’s data as well as learning the meaning of the data because it is readily available to them.  Many, however, are far less fortunate.  For these analysts, I am one of them, multiple generals are in play.  And while I can do my best to learn each one’s data, it only makes sense to all involved if I can use these individual pieces to put together the larger puzzle for presentation.  I have to be able to make their data flow.  Each general plays a role in the overall conflict, but the ultimate outcome relies on each one to be able to complete their tasks in a dynamic synergy with the others.  It is an all-win or all-lose situation, and my job is to make sure the former is the outcome.  However, this is most often not an easy thing to do, as each country has its own language, which usually creates barriers to the understanding between them.  Translation is the key.  If I cannot create common ground between all of the sets of data, I need to at least provide a decoder ring to the other allies.  While common ground is the preferred choice, understanding that “code A” in one system is similar to “code B” in another can bridge these gaps.  A strong analyst can take disparate data and combine it in such a way that it makes sense to all that can see it.

Present their data

It is a common sight during any conflicts that are staged between the allies and their enemies.  A general will be standing in front of a room full of people in the media and show charts and diagrams that show the latest happenings.  Before any of that information can be available for presentation, there is a need to rely on that general to decide what story he wishes to convey to others.  Without that as a starting point, there is no way to start the process of putting the data together in a meaningful way.  Or at least, a way that will not be an embarrassment to him as he speaks.  Out of that pool of collected data, understanding the story that needs to be told by the presenter and to what audience it is intended to be shown is of the utmost importance.  I doubt that a general wants to stand in that room and present a trend of the amount of money being spent each day on the battle to predict total war costs, but would rather discuss the positive aspects of his troop’s progress.  With the desired story in hand, only then should a good analyst decide on just how to use the data to tell that story.  A good analyst can use the accessible data to relay the desired story to the masses. 


To be the best analyst I can be…

  • I have to be able to access the data they have
  • I have to have access to what they know
  • I have to be able to make their data flow

…so that I can present the best analysis available to help in the decision-making process.

Through this post, my desire is to help give a voice to frustrated analysts out there that hit the same roadblocks that I have when it comes to trying to do their work.  It is difficult to perform at your best when you figuratively have one hand tied behind your back, and you are not alone.  Some things that I have found that might help?  Find those other “generals” that understand your dilemma and have them reach out to the difficult ones to see if that may help to get things moving in the right direction.  It will take two things (as I go into my best Morgan Freeman voice) - patience and time.  In rare cases, it may need to go to an even higher level, but this often helps your cause.

My other hope is that there are “generals” that have read this information and can now understand why analysts ask for what they do.  If you really want an analyst to help you the most, you have to be willing to grant access to your data and support efforts to help them to understand the business side of that data so that they can help you and the other leaders with whom you work to present the most compelling stories possible.  Usually, an analyst that does not seem favorable to you has come to that point because of a deficiency in one of these areas, and your help can transform them into a powerful ally.  It definitely takes both sides to make it work!

Written by: Staff Author

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