Alfred, Robin, and How to be a Great Analyst

by Jim Cain

Recently, I came across some blog posts I’d written in 2011, it was a bit like opening a 10-year-old time capsule. Some of the topics were no longer relevant and somewhat amusing simply because of how far digital measurement has come since they were written, but I was pleased to see that several of them – including three that were written under the theme of pop-culture, still hold true today. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing them with you (again) in a series called “Napkyn Classics: Smart Thinking Never Goes out of Style”. Enjoy!

One of the easiest ways to make sure to not get fired (or even under-appreciated) as a web analyst is to follow the Napkyn Batman Theory of Analysis™. This theory works as follows:

1. Your boss is Batman: This one is somewhat obvious, but can actually be hard for some people to process.  The person you are providing reporting and insights to is the hero of the story.  They make the big decisions, they are accountable for them and they will get the lion’s share of the credit for the big win.  This is not a bad thing, because:

2. A good analyst is either Robin or Alfred:  Even if you only have the roughest understanding of Batman, you know he would have been dead meat countless times without Robin and Alfred.  Both of them provide different, but critical, support that helps Batman save the day and get the headlines.

3.Your boss dictates whether you are Alfred or Robin, not you:  This is the critical part of the theory because it helps explain the two different types of stakeholders that we tend to see in every company.  Once we know which type of boss we have, we are able to provide exactly the right kind of analyst support

Boss who needs Alfred: 

This type of executive will often be a senior exec in a large organization and is used to having lots of staff putting reports on their desk.  The way to this exec’s heart is to be the Alfred to their Batman — quietly and competently providing exactly the right reports and insights at the right time.  Alfred never goes out and fights crime, but he makes sure Batman leaves with exactly the right tools for the job and is waiting to clean up when he gets back.  The emphasis with an ‘Alfred’ executive is to focus heavily on high impact at-a-glance analysis that is both timely and valuable.  Note: Never recommend actions to an ‘Alfred’ executive.

Boss who needs Robin: 

This type will often be an executive in a mid-market company, a business owner, or in some cases a senior stakeholder who has developed significant trust in his/her analyst.  This exec wants you to help them fight the good fight and be active in getting results.  Like Alfred, Robin makes sure Batman has the tools and support to succeed, but he will actually go out and get his hands dirty.  ‘Robin’ executives love it when you provide analysis that comes with strong recommendations and action items.  Note:  Trying the Alfred routine with a Robin executive is a good way to lose your support, after the fourth yawn you will have all future reports auto-flagged for junk mail.

Good business analysis allows the business to stop competing on intuition, and great analysis allows small companies to play at a much higher level.  No matter how great the work is though, it doesn’t matter if no-one reads it.  Try looking through your organization and finding the ‘Alfred’ and the ‘Robin’ stakeholders — and tailor your work to meet their needs.  The more Batman wins, the more visibility Alfred or Robin gets.

Cheers,

Jim

(PS: Of course, all Batman/Robin/Alfred names and imagery are copyright DC Comics/DC Entertainment.)

Jim Cain

Founder and CEO, Napkyn Analytics

See more posts from Jim