Cheat Sheet to Pick the right graph or chart for your data:


I have two resources that I use sometimes to pick the right graph or chart for data visualization.

#1: Chart Suggestions:

chart data

#2: Online Tool

(By Juice Labs)

chart pick choose online tool

What are some of the most important resources a Data analyst needs to know about?


This question was asked on Quora and here’s my answer:

I will list resources broken down by three categories.

  1. Business Knowledge: As a data analyst, you need to have at least basic knowledge of business areas that you are helping with. For example: if you are doing Marketing Analytics then you need to understand basic concepts in marketing and that will make you more effective. You can do so one of the three ways:
    • On-the-job: Pick up knowledge by interacting with business people and using internal knowledge bases.
    • Online resources: Pick up basics of marketing by taking a beginners course online on a platform like Coursera OR from resources like this: Business Concepts – Bootcamp |
    • College/University: If you are at a college/university then you can either audit a course or depending on your major/minor, core business courses might just be part of the curriculum
  2. Communication skills:
    • Public Speaking: Toastmaster’s is a great resource. if you don’t have access to a local Toastmasters club, you should be able to find a course online. Check out Coursera.
    • Data Storytelling: Just listening to someone like Hans Rosling can be very inspiring! The best stats you’ve ever seen . Also, If you search storytelling with data on YouTube, you will see few good talks: storytelling with data – YouTube
    • Problem structuring: If you are able to break down the problem into core components to identify root cause, you will not only increase your speed to insight but your structure will also help you communicate it more effectively. Learn to break down your problems and use that in communicating your data analysis approach. Imagine this list without the three high-level categories — wouldn’t it look like I am throwing random resources at you? By giving it a structure — Tech, Biz, Communication, I am not only able to structure it but also communicate it to you more effectively. More here: Structure your Thoughts – Bootcamp |
  3. Tech skills: Read Akash Dugam’s answer: Akash Dugam’s answer to What are some of the most important resources a Data analyst needs to know about? — it’s a nice list. Also, check this out: Learn #Data Analysis online – free curriculum

A great data analyst will focus on all areas and a good data analyst might just focus on tech. Hope that helps!


Book Giveaway: Head First Data Analysis — Ends 07/22/2016


<< THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED NOW! Thanks for Participating! >>

Head First Data Analysis

Book Giveaway: Head First Data Analysis — A learner’s guide to big numbers, statistics and good decisions!

I love Head First series — if you haven’t read one of these books, you should — it’s great! So when I learned that they had a Data Analysis one, I had to read it. So I bought one and skimmed through it.

Now, Instead of letting it sit on my shelf, I think it might better serve its life purpose if more people read it so I have decided to do this little experiment.


  1. You need to have an US-based address so that I can ship it to you (no cost to you!)
  2. You need to comment on this blog post on or before 07/22/2016 — just put your name & email. I’ll contact you if you win*

*Random selection!


How to create a Histogram in Excel?


Histogram is a powerful data analysis technique — it let’s you quickly see the distribution of the data you have. So in this post, I am going to list the steps to create histogram in Excel.

It’s a two-step process.

  1. Install “Data Analysis Tool Pak” (free Excel add-in)
  2. Format the data and build the histogram

Step 1: Install Data Analysis Tool Pak.

One of the most useful data analysis add-in in excel is not available by default! It’s called “Analysis ToolPak”

To activate it. Go to File > Excel options > Addins > For the manage field, select Excel add-ins

Histogram Manage Excel add-insMake sure that ToolPak is activated and click OK.

Histogram analysis toolpak excel(Also, Solver is a great add-in as well! It’s not in the scope of this article to discuss that add-in but it’s a powerful add-in as well. For instance, it let’s you work on optimization problems)

Step 2: Format Data and build the Histogram

So now let’s format the data.

You need two things to create a Histogram. 1) Data 2) Range

Here’s an example: (I have about 3000 numbers and need to see the distribution)

You could have other fields on the sheet as well but you need at least the data field. Range is optional but I recommend that you specify the Range so that your histogram would have the bins that you specified — otherwise you could have just used a bar chart!

Note that both of them are numerical.

Data Histogram

Now go to Menu Bar > Data > Data Analysis

Data Analysis HistogramOut of the options available, click on Histogram and select the Input Range and Bin Range > after you’re done, click OK.

Data Analysis Histogram ToolpakYou should see a new worksheet with raw data (ready for charting!). Now, create a Bar chart using the raw data and you have your histogram:

Histogram Excel Data AnalysisConclusion:

In this post I listed the steps you can take to create a Histogram in Excel. Note that there are other options as well — like R (hist function) that let’s you build histogram as well so you do have choice of tools but if you want to stick with excel and it’s good enough then you now know how. Cheers!

Related Post: What is the difference between Histogram & Bar Chart?

What data are data scientists at startups actually analyzing? How is it collected?


Question: What data are data scientists at startups actually analyzing? How is it collected?
(Coming from a web analytics background I’m wondering what data are data scientist at IT companies actually analyzing. Is it server-side or client-side? Is it collected internally or using some external tool?)


Part 1: What are startups analyzing?

It depends on the Business Model and the Stage that they are at.

Business Models: Marketplace, Ecom, SaaS, Media, etc.

Stage: Early, Mid, Late

So let’s say you have a SaaS model and you’re in Mid-stage (post product-market fit stage) then you would tend to be focused on things like: Engagement, Churn, etc…and ideally they should be focused on measuring what aligns best with the strategy (instead of capturing everything!)

Let’s take another example. Let’s say you are a Marketplace in late-stage. So you would tend to be focused more on the “money” and so you can measure things like: transactions, commissions, etc…

I recommend reading “lean analytics” book as it goes much deeper and it’s a great starting point for anyone to understand how analytics could help a startup.

Part 2: How is it collected?

Now this also depends on your product. Assuming you’re a tech startup, you would have Web App and/or Desktop app and/or Mobile app. And now depending on your delivery approach plus your measurement needs, the “how” part will be determined. It would invariably be a combination of your transactions data source, web/mobile events stack (like Google analytics/other-Vendor or Custom), finance data source among others.

This post points to 10 other blogs which lists their “data” stack: The Data Infrastructure Meta-Analysis: How Top Engineering Organizations Built Their Big Data Stacks – The Data Point

View Question on Quora

Building data driven companies — 3 P’s framework.

Data Driven Comapnies need Process Platform People

Data Driven Companies — 3 P’s framework


To build data-driven organization, you need decision makers to use data instead of anything else. So you need to help built a culture where data-driven decision-making thrives — usually this is most efficient if you have executive buy-in. Example: A CEO who is a stats-junkie! Of course, not every company would have this. It could be that you find yourself in an organization where the CEO is known to make huge bets just using “gut” — in cases like this, an organization could have some of the best platform and processes but unfortunately, it won’t do any good.

Now just having people who make data driven decisions is not enough — you (as a data professional) need to deliver “data” to them. To do that you need 1) Processes 2) Platform. So let’s talk about them:


A platform in this context is the data and analytics platform used by the organization to get the data they need, when they need it. If the organization is small (e.g. less than 15 or so) then the platform could be excel and engineers/analyst writing ad-hoc queries but as you grow (= team size expands) then you need better platform to serve the data needs of the organization. Some tools are better than others and you would usually wind up using multiple vendors in your analytics stack — but remember that jut having a great analytics platform is not enough. You need the “people” and the “processes” to go with that. So, with that let’s talk about process:


Process is everything between Platform and People. Let me expand on this. Here are few things where having a defined process is key for building data-driven organizations.

  1. How to prioritize the analytics request? It will be great to have a process where you/team will work on projects that closely align with the strategic objective of the company
  2. What does the analytics org-structure look like? Do you have analyst embedded in each team or do you have a centralized team or do you go for a hybrid approach?
  3. What is the process to justify investment in analytics?
  4. Which is the “right” metric definition? (There needs to be a process that keeps the metric definition standardized in an organization)
  5. What is the process to clean data? (Maintaining data integrity is key. You could put this on “Platform” bucket as well)
  6. How do users get “help”? (Is there a ticketing system that they should use? Is it just another “IT” ticket? Who responds to tickets? What’s the SLA around analytics queue tickets? etc)
  7. Who owns “analytics”? There needs to be someone on the team owns analytics like analytics manager, VP of analytics and he/she should be reporting to someone on management team (CIO, CFO, COO, Chief of Staff, CEO) who is held responsible as well.

The list goes on…but I hope you get the point. Having a well-defined processes in an organization is important — usually, this stuff gets less attention and org’s/teams tend to focus just on “platform” which might not be the best thing to do.

Having shared the 3 P’s, let me share few tips on

How to go about implementing the framework:

Three tips:

  1. Identify the “P” that has the best ROI
  2. It’s an iterative process!
  3. Refine as needed

On #1. To help you identify the “P” that has the best ROI, your first step could be to create a matrix to help you evaluate where your organizations falls. I have shown an example below:

Building Data Driven companies 3 Ps framework matrix

If you want to build analytics from scratch then you would love working at early stage startups (bottom-right) but if you like advanced stuff (data-science) then Top-right corner is great! Also, For org’s in Top Left where you have the platform and processes but lack data-driven people — it would be wise to crank up your efforts to drive adoption. (since you already have the right platform and process than any additional investment here would yield little to no ROI).

On #2. Understand that it’s an iterative process. You are never done optimizing any of these P’s! It’s a journey and not a destination.

Continuos Improvement Process People Platform

On #3: Just like with other frameworks, you’ll need to refine and adjust this based on your needs. You may have noticed that I focused on “Org-wide” framework but you could be heading up an analytics function for a department and in that case, not all of the things here would help. “People”, “Process” and “Platform” would still apply on a high level but it might just be that you don’t have “control” over the platform. So, you may need to refine/adjust this as needed.

I hope the framework is a great tool for you to think about building data driven companies!

Paras Doshi

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[VIDEO] Microsoft’s vision for “Advanced analytics” (presented at #sqlpass summit 2015)


Presented at #sqlpass summit 2015.