The changing role of the analyst: the move away from manual reformatting

  • February 14th, 2017

It used to be the case that research reports had to be updated by hand. Armed with new data, the analysts would have to manually reformat all their charts and graphs and the report would be reissued.

Even if the charts and graphs being used in the updated report were the same format as the previous year, with the only change being the data that is about to be visually represented, each chart or graph would have to be rebuilt from scratch.

According to our own modelling, a typical business information firm could spend around 1,300 hours manually reformatting just its charts and tables – that’s equivalent to 0.8 full time analysts doing nothing but drawing up new charts every time an update is issued.

This single, updating process was long, arduous, and as a result would happen infrequently; and if mistakes were also discovered the process of re-authoring, approvals, and republishing would become even longer, more inefficient and, frankly, a good deal more tedious.

Thankfully, all of that can now be a thing of the past. Publishing technology has evolved to the point where updates can be automated and edits made to live documents in seconds, liberating the analyst from drudgery and an inefficient use of their valuable time.

New technology, changing costs

In fact, now that the capability exists to publish and update on a continual basis – rather than annually, or every 18-months – market forces will quite quickly encourage all research and analysis firms to move to a system of automated updating – doing otherwise will just prove to be uneconomic.

Our modelling suggests that manual reformatting on an annual basis costs around $120,000. When you move to quarterly, the cost grows to $480,000 – that’s before you’ve even considered the cost of the research itself.

A research business that continues to manually update while rivals automate updates and publish continually is likely, over quite a short time, to see its rival become more efficient.

So, what are the benefits of automated reformatting and updates?

  • Research refreshed more often – maximising the value of its data and insights
  • Customers return regularly to check new content
  • Enables use of a service model, rather than single-sales
  • Encourages greater economies and efficiencies for the research publisher

Reconfiguring the analyst

Of course, there’s a final bullet point missing from the list above. The most significant benefit to any research business is that automated updates can liberate its analysts’ time. Rather than changing text, updating tables, and redrawing charts and graphs, technology allows them to concentrate on maximising the quality and depth of their research

Automated updates and continual production may at first seem like technical efficiencies, but what they really do is give research businesses back their analysts’ time and expertise.

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