Data Detectives: Who Are They and What Analytical Strategies Do They Employ?

 Every organization has them: data detectives. While they may not accessorize their work attire with a trench coat, hat, magnifying glass and pipe, data detectives are masters at tediously drilling down into data to solve mysteries within the organization and create meaning and insight. We recently commissioned a study by the Aberdeen Group that took a closer look at data detectives and how they discover answers that others can’t. The survey included responses from more than 650 business intelligence (BI) users.


The first portion of the study sought to identify key traits of the data detective. But first, what exactly is a data detective, as it relates to this study? Respondents were asked if they were both a data-driven decision maker and a creator of analysis. Those who identified with both descriptions fell into the data detective bucket, while those who fell into only one of those categories were identified as “All Others.”


The first task of the survey was to identify the top analytical strategies data detectives employ. Here are the top three:


  • Identify key data sources required for analysis (40 percent of data detectives, 26 percent of all others)
  • Takeaway: Data detectives are tasked with solving mysteries, and with any “unsolved crime,” it is important to line up potential witnesses to get to the truth.


  • Deliver analytical capability to more operational business functions (38 percent of data detectives, 32 percent of all others)
  • Takeaway: The evidence can be hidden in unlikely places, which means having BI functionality throughout the organization will arm data detectives what they need to produce more comprehensive insights.


  • Improve collaboration by breaking down information silos (32 percent of data detectives, 46 percent of all others)
  • Takeaway: Very often, data detectives have existing collaboration strategies in place, which allow them access to information not readily available to others. Because detectives like to reach conclusions based on their own research, data derived via collaboration isn’t as interesting or as useful to them. For all others, that kind of data access doesn’t necessarily exist, so their desire for silo-breaking is understandable.


Like any good sleuth, data detectives are driven by the desire to know everything there is to know about the data, having unfettered access to critical clues, and they’re fiercely independent when working on mysteries they’re assigned to solve. Want to learn more? Download the complimentary report, “Analytical Detectives: Solving Data Mysteries.”


In an upcoming post, we’ll explore the tools used by data detectives and how they employ metrics to find answers.