If you were to ask a random sampling of people what data analysis is, most would say that it is the process of calculating and summarizing data to get an answer to a question. In one sense, they are correct. However, the actions they are describing represent only a small part of the process known as data analysis.
For example, if you were asked to analyze how much revenue in sales your company made last month, what would you have to do in order to complete that analysis? You would just calculate and summarize the sales for the month, right? Well, where would you get the sales data? Where would you store the data? Would you have to clean up the data when you got it? How would you present your analysis: by week, by day, by location? The point being made here is that the process of data analysis is made up of more than just calculating and summarizing data.
A more representative definition of data analysis is the process of systematically collecting, transforming, and analyzing data in order to present meaningful conclusions. To better understand this concept, think of data analysis as a process that encapsulates four fundamental actions: collection, transformation, analysis, and presentation.
Collection. Collection encompasses the gathering and storing of data—that is, where you obtain your data, how you will receive your data, how you will store your data, and how you will access your data when it comes time to perform some analysis.
Transformation. Transformation is the ...