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What is Descriptive Analytics?

Descriptive analytics is a field of statistics that focuses on gathering and summarizing

raw data to be easily interpreted. Generally, descriptive analytics concentrate on
historical data, providing the context that is vital for understanding information and

The field is used across a variety of industries and needs, and can cover a diverse range
of purposes, from inventory tracking to benchmarking yearly revenues and sales.

See it in action:

The field usually serves as a preliminary step in the business intelligence process,
creating a foundation for further analysis and understanding.

Essentially, descriptive analytics seeks answers about what happened, without

performing the more complex analyses required in diagnostics and predictive models. In
business intelligence, descriptive analytics is usually the first step, and will result in
visualizations like pie charts, line graphs, bar charts, and other simpler graphical

The field usually employs simpler mathematics and statistical tools (such as arithmetic,
averages, and percent changes) instead of more complex calculations that predictive and
prescriptive analytics perform. It also includes the initial stages of data aggregation and
data mining in most data analytics software.

How Can I Use Descriptive Analytics?

Even without knowing it, many organizations use descriptive analytics extensively in their
everyday operations. For most businesses, descriptive analytics form the core of their
everyday reporting. This includes simpler reports such as inventory, workflow,
warehousing, and sales, which can be aggregated easily and provide a clear picture of a
company’s operations. One straightforward example of how descriptive analytics are
used in operations revolves around annual revenue reports.

See it in action:

On the surface, revenues of $1 million are a good thing. However, this raw number may
be misleading without the benefit of context. Historical data can provide a clearer picture
of the financial situation and show you how that $1 million in revenues compares to
previous months’ or years’ sales.

Similarly, a warehouse may need to understand why specific items are constantly out of
stock, or over-ordered.

A quick scan of historic data may show them that certain products have seasonal peaks
and troughs, or that there have been too many orders of an unpopular product.

See it in action:

Even broader financial statistics fall in the descriptive analytics umbrella. For instance,
data like return on invested capital, yearly sales, year-over-year revenues, and price to
earnings ratios all arrive from performing descriptive analysis on financial figures.

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