Choosing an Analytical Tool is an Analysis Itself!
With the overwhelming number of analytical tools, platforms, dashboards, and languages, selecting the right tool, approach, or framework is daunting. Matching an analytical tool to a specific data set can be the most important step of completing analysis on a set of information, and is often overlooked. Selecting the right tool gives you the keys to the kingdom.
To get started, define the scope of questions you want to answer using the data. Then, identify the consumers of the information and align that with the skills of the analysts themselves. There are many types of analysis to consider when answering the analytical questions... Predictive. Visual. Statistical. Geospatial. All need different tools.
Most projects involving complex data sets require multiple forms of analysis. For example, a report may require a statistical analysis of the correlation between arrests for human trafficking and national events as well as a map that illustrates the number of arrests for human trafficking by city. An analyst could use a tool for statistical analysis such as Statistical Analysis System (SAS) or Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) and a tool for geospatial analysis such as Arc Geographic Information System (ArcGIS). Some tools can successfully perform multiple kinds of analysis. For instance, Tableau is a tool that creates powerful visualizations of large datasets, and has the capability to overlay that information onto maps. Programming languages like R and Python are often used to manipulate data sets and do customized analysis. Over time, an organization builds up expertise and capabilities and each individual project fits within that context.
While there are many tools available to analyze data, successful analysis depends on thoughtful preparation and planning. Asking the right questions before analysis has begun and selecting the proper tools at the onset enables analysts to develop insightful work products that go far beyond what is required. You may even solve some problems that you did not know you needed to at the beginning!