In this episode, let’s talk through the differences between analytics and reporting. These two terms get used interchangeably often and they’re not the same thing. Watch, listen, or read to find out why.
Can’t see anything? Watch it on YouTube here.
Listen to the audio here:
- Got a question for You Ask, I'll Answer? Submit it here!
- Subscribe to my weekly newsletter for more useful marketing tips.
- Subscribe to Inbox Insights, the Trust Insights newsletter for weekly fresh takes and data.
- Find older episodes of You Ask, I Answer on my YouTube channel.
- Need help with your company's data and analytics? Let me know!
- Join my free Slack group for marketers interested in analytics!
What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for watching the video.
Christopher Penn 0:15
In this episode, let’s talk through the differences between analytics and reporting.
These two terms are used interchangeably a lot, an awful lot.
And they’re not the same thing.
This came about because we’re talking about Google Analytics 4, and how it is a very different tool than Universal Analytics, Google Analytics 3, Google Analytics 3 was sort of all in one swiss army knife, right configuration, analytics, and reporting all in one tool.
And then in Google Analytics, 4.
These are now three separate software packages, effectively Google Tag Manager for configuration, Google Analytics for analytics, and Google Data Studio reporting.
Most of the time, when people are talking about analytics, they’re actually talking about reporting.
Most of the time, most of the time, people are using tools like Google Analytics, or Facebook analytics, Hubspot, analytics, or whatever, to report on what has happened.
Now, let’s start with analytics analytics, from the Greek word on a line means to unlock to loosen, right, and the, the way we use this term means to take data that we have of some kind of sort of shake it, right, loosen it up, and get stuff out of it, get something useful out of this, this pile of data is to unlock it.
And if we think of data as the raw materials, then analytics would be taking those raw materials and crafting them into something.
What happened is the big question that we try to answer the most, when we’re doing analytics, when we’re doing insights, question we try to answer is why why did those things happen? And so when we’re talking about reporting, reporting is different reporting is communicating our results are the results of our analysis results for analytics to somebody else, right? You give them a PowerPoint, a dashboard, for 40 page, typed paper, something that says, here’s what happened, and we’re communicating this in a way that will be hopefully useful to you, as the consumer of this data.
And so when we think about analytics and reporting this way, we see the very different functions.
One is trying to understand what happened.
The other is trying to communicate what happened to someone else.
The best analogy I can make is that analytics is like cooking, right? You got your raw ingredients, you cook them, you process them in some way to make a dish.
And then reporting is like plating and serving where like, you just don’t hand somebody a frying silk with what you got.
Right? You played it, maybe you make it look nice, you walk it out from the kitchen to, to where people are dining, and you consume it now yeah, of course, there are exceptions, right? Go to hibachi restaurant in their cooking literally in front of you and setting things on fire and stuff, order a breakfast skillet at Denny’s or whatever, and you get the pan that was literally cooked in.
So it’s not like, inflexible, but for the most part, when you’re cooking, you’re using one set of dishes and processes and things like that.
And then when you’re plating and serving, it’s something different, it’s presented, you know, the the results are presented in a way that hopefully, is appealing, right? From a taste perspective, you just served certain foods like in one big pile, right? It would taste fine.
Even if that’s horrendous to look at, right, whereas something as artful with, you know, little chopped herbs and things like that.
That presents the the output in a in a more pleasant way and can enhance the dining experience.
When we talk about analytics, and we talk about reporting, if we treat them the same, then we are effectively saying we’re just kind of slop the food on the plate and fling it in Iranian and you get what you get right.
As opposed to saying no, here’s our analysis.
We’re going to plate analysis.
We’re going to prepare it, we’re going to make it look nice.
We’ll put it in the company PowerPoint template, or whatever, so that it’s ready for consumption.
Maybe even do things like write some narrative around it.
To make it more appealing and make it more understandable make it more digestible that we might think about when you look at a piece of data Our analysis says our website traffic was down 42%.
Last month, our stakeholders probably going to ask, you know, first question there, ask us why why did that happen? And that’s not supposed to happen supposed to always go up into the right?
Christopher Penn 5:16
If we are doing analysis without considering the plating of our outputs, we’re not prepared to answer that question.
Right, we say, I’m gonna go, Look, I’ll get back to you.
Whereas if we think about the plating, we can anticipate, I’m going to ask why, why is our traffic down 42%.
And it’s because, you know, Google changed its search algorithm, we lost a bunch of traffic or our CEO was just arrested.
And you know, it damages the company’s reputation, or whatever.
There’s that aspect of, of preparing it in such a way that the most obvious questions someone would have about analysis are answered, there’s something called out when I do reporting for our clients.
And we always have these little call out boxes, pointing out, Hey, this is this is worth paying attention to use a big bar chart, but this bar right here, pay attention to this one, this is important.
It’s plating, it’s plating our, our results in a way that is appealing to the eye that enhances the dining experience, the consumption experience of our data.
And makes it easier for people to recommend makes it easier for people to make a decision from, right if you have a bunch of data, but you just call out this is the one thing that is important, make a decision on this.
It helps to focus people and you’re not hiding anything, right? You’re not concealing the truth, the data is there, if they wanted to, they want to run their own analysis to unlock the data from a different perspective.
But the reporting that you’ve done guides how you want people to consume it.
Right? Again, like plating, if you if you have a big pile of food, and you just fling it all in a bucket and hands the person it’s a it’s unappealing and be it’s you’re risking them consuming in ways you didn’t intend.
If you take all of your data, and you played it, appetizer, first course, second course, third course dessert and you space it out.
People will consume the data in the order you want them to in in a way that tells the story that you want to be told.
So you as the reporting person have a lot of control, a lot of control over how data is consumed.
Right over how data is interpreted by the way you played it.
One of the things that is unfortunate is something of a very common misperception is that data science or analytics is more sophisticated and more important than reporting, right? Because anybody can put together a PowerPoint, right? Well, yes, anybody can put together a PowerPoint.
Not everybody can put it together well, right? Anybody can cook.
Not everybody can cook well.
And so if we think about the art of plating, and presenting our data, there are artful ways, and there less artful ways, just like there is with food, right? You could take all the ingredients of sushi and just put it in a pile.
No one’s gonna be happy with you.
But if you arrange it really nicely, and how that little fake plastic grass stuff, you make it look nice.
It helps people process it better.
So analytics and reporting are not the same thing.
They’re two separate disciplines, they require two separate sets of skills.
And the two outcomes are very different analysis is to unlock not what not only what happened, but things like anomalies, trends, maybe even predictions.
Reporting is all about communicating our results.
And you have to do the analysis to do the reporting.
That is true.
But analysis without good reporting is lost on people and they won’t make the decisions that will make everybody happier or get better results or make more money.
And both roles both functions are equally important.
So avoid treating reporting as though it was an afterthought or less important in the same way that a Michelin starred restaurant is not going to invest heavily in a chef that cooks really well but then plates terribly right that that plating experience is part of the dining experience is part of what makes a Michelin starred chef so valuable.
So use that analogy, cooking versus plating and how they both work together to create the best possible We’ll outcome thanks for watching if you’d like this video go ahead and hit that subscribe button
You might also enjoy:
- The Basic Truth of Mental Health
- What Content Marketing Analytics Really Measures
- What Is The Difference Between Analysis and Insight?
- How I Think About NFTs
- Retiring Old Email Marketing Strategies
Want to read more like this from Christopher Penn? Get updates here:
Get your copy of AI For Marketers