Emerging Methods

Diagnostic Analytics – Methods, Tools and Examples

Diagnostic Analytics

Diagnostic Analytics


Diagnostic analytics is a form of data analytics that examines data or content to answer the question, “Why did it happen?” It is characterized by techniques such as drill-down, data discovery, data mining, and correlations. It’s used to identify behaviors, trends, and patterns to figure out why certain outcomes have occurred.

This type of analysis is more advanced than descriptive analytics (which simply describes what has happened) but not as advanced as predictive analytics (which makes predictions about the future based on the data) or prescriptive analytics (which suggests actions to benefit from predictions and optimize outcomes).

Diagnostic Analytics Techniques

Diagnostic analytics encompasses various techniques used to understand why something happened the way it did in the past. Here are a few techniques that are commonly used in diagnostic analytics:

Drill-Down Analysis

This technique involves starting with a general question and moving towards more specific pieces of information. By systematically breaking down data, it helps to isolate the cause of a particular outcome.

Data Discovery

This involves mining different datasets to find patterns and anomalies. This process often involves the use of data visualization tools, which can highlight trends and outliers that may not be immediately apparent in raw data.

Data Mining

This technique involves analyzing large volumes of data to discover patterns and correlations that may not be immediately apparent. This includes clustering and classification techniques to group similar data and discover relationships.

Correlation Analysis

Correlation analysis identifies patterns between two or more variables in a dataset to establish how strongly they are related. This could help in identifying if a change in one variable could be causing a change in another.

Regression Analysis

Regression analysis is a statistical method used to understand the relationship between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables. It is used to predict the value of the dependent variable based on the values of the independent variables.

Root Cause Analysis

This is a problem-solving technique that helps to identify, correct, and eliminate the root causes of problems or events. It is designed to find the fundamental underlying issues.

Time Series Analysis

This technique involves analyzing a sequence of data points ordered in time (typically at successive intervals) to identify trends, cycles, and other patterns.

Diagnostic Analytics Methodology

The methodology for diagnostic analytics typically involves several steps, often similar to other data analytics processes. Here are the general steps involved:

  • Define the Problem or Outcome: The first step is to clearly define the outcome you are trying to understand. This could be a particular trend, a performance metric, a business problem, or any other outcome that you have observed in your descriptive analytics.
  • Data Collection: Once you’ve defined the problem, the next step is to gather the relevant data. This could involve compiling data from various sources, such as databases, logs, surveys, etc.
  • Data Cleaning and Preparation: After collecting the data, it’s important to clean and prepare it for analysis. This involves removing or correcting errors, handling missing values, and possibly transforming the data into a suitable format.
  • Data Analysis: The next step is to conduct the analysis. This typically involves using statistical methods to identify patterns, correlations, or trends in the data. The specific techniques used will depend on the problem and the data, but could include methods like regression analysis, time-series analysis, correlation analysis, etc.
  • Interpret Results: After the analysis, the results need to be interpreted. This involves understanding the relationships and patterns identified in the data and drawing conclusions about the causes of the outcome you’re investigating.
  • Communicate Findings: The last step is to communicate the findings. This could involve creating a report or a presentation that clearly explains the results of the analysis and the conclusions drawn.
  • Take Action: Based on the insights from the diagnostic analytics, the appropriate actions are taken to address the identified issues or to exploit the discovered opportunities.

Diagnostic Analytics Tools

Here are several diagnostic analytics tools that are widely used:

Tableau: A popular data visualization tool that allows users to create a wide range of different visualizations to represent data and drill down into data for in-depth analysis.

Microsoft Power BI: A business analytics tool suite that provides interactive visualizations with self-service business intelligence capabilities, enabling end users to create reports and dashboards by themselves, without having to depend on any information technology staff or database administrator.

QlikView: This tool provides associative data indexing, which allows complex, multi-level, detailed analysis. It also provides strong visualization capabilities.

Looker: Looker is a data discovery application that provides an intuitive approach to data exploration. It enables companies to find correlations and patterns in their data through its modern data platform.

SAS Analytics: SAS provides a range of analytics tools, including options for diagnostic analytics. Its solutions offer advanced analytics like multivariate analyses, business forecasting, and optimization.

Alteryx: This platform provides a range of tools for data preparation, data blending, and analytics. It’s designed to be used by data scientists and business analysts alike.

RapidMiner: This is a data science platform that provides an integrated environment for data preparation, machine learning, deep learning, text mining, and predictive analytics.

IBM SPSS Modeler: This tool supports a range of data analytics capabilities, including diagnostic analytics. It’s a graphical data science and predictive analytics platform designed for users of all skill levels to develop and deploy analytics at scale across the organization.

KNIME: An open-source, user-friendly, and comprehensive data analytics platform, enabling users to perform sophisticated statistics and data mining on their data.

Python and R Programming Languages: These languages, when combined with packages like pandas, NumPy, Matplotlib (for Python), and dplyr, ggplot2 (for R), offer powerful platforms for performing diagnostic analytics.

Diagnostic Analytics Examples

Some Diagnostic Analytics Examples in real life are as follows:

Customer Churn Analysis: Telecom companies often use diagnostic analytics to understand why customers leave (known as customer churn). By analyzing data such as usage patterns, customer complaints, and payment history, they can identify key factors contributing to customer churn. For instance, they might find that customers are more likely to leave after experiencing poor customer service, or that churn is more likely among customers using certain service plans. This information can then be used to improve customer retention strategies.

Supply Chain Management: Businesses with complex supply chains often use diagnostic analytics to optimize their operations. For instance, if a company frequently experiences delays in a particular stage of the supply chain, diagnostic analytics can help identify the root cause. They might find, for instance, that delays are more common when certain suppliers are involved, or during certain times of year. This information can then be used to address the root causes and improve efficiency.

Sales Performance Analysis: Businesses often use diagnostic analytics to understand trends in their sales data. If a company observes a decline in sales, diagnostic analytics can help identify the factors causing this decline. They might find, for example, that sales have declined among a certain demographic, or that the decline coincides with changes to a product or pricing strategy. This can then inform decisions on how to boost sales.

Cybersecurity Systems: In the world of cybersecurity, real-time diagnostic analytics can be used to detect and respond to threats as they occur. For instance, if a system detects an unusual amount of login attempts, real-time diagnostic analytics can be used to determine the cause – possibly a brute force attack. Measures can then be taken immediately to secure the system, such as blocking the IP address or implementing stricter access controls.

Healthcare Monitoring Systems: In healthcare, real-time diagnostic analytics can be used to monitor the condition of patients. For example, wearable devices can collect a range of data points such as heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. If these indicators deviate from the normal range, real-time diagnostic analytics can help identify the cause – for instance, an irregular heart rate might be due to physical stress or a medical condition. Immediate action can then be taken to address the issue.

When to use Diagnostic Analytics

Diagnostic analytics can be helpful in a variety of situations, primarily when you want to understand why a certain event happened or why a specific result was achieved. Here are some examples of when to use diagnostic analytics:

  • When there’s a significant change in key metrics: If your sales, customer churn, web traffic, or other key metrics suddenly increase or decrease, diagnostic analytics can help identify the causes of these changes.
  • During performance reviews: Diagnostic analytics can help understand the factors contributing to the performance of a team, a department, a campaign, or an individual. It helps in identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.
  • To understand customer behavior: If customers are behaving in a way that is not anticipated or desired (e.g., not completing purchases, not engaging with a service, or providing negative feedback), diagnostic analytics can help identify the reasons behind this behavior.
  • To improve operational efficiency: If there are bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or other problems in your operations, diagnostic analytics can help identify the root causes of these issues.
  • In risk management and fraud detection: Diagnostic analytics can help identify patterns that might suggest fraudulent activity or highlight areas of risk that need to be managed.
  • In product development and innovation: If a product isn’t performing as well as expected or if you’re trying to understand how a product can be improved, diagnostic analytics can help identify factors that are impacting product performance.

Applications of Diagnostic Analytics

Diagnostic analytics can be applied in a wide range of fields, providing insight into past performance and helping to inform future decision-making. Here are some specific applications:

Marketing: Diagnostic analytics can help identify which marketing strategies and channels are most effective and why. By analyzing past campaigns, marketers can identify the most successful tactics and understand the factors that contributed to their success.

Finance: In finance, diagnostic analytics can be used to understand the factors driving financial performance. For instance, if revenues or profits have changed significantly, diagnostic analytics can help identify the underlying causes.

Operations: Businesses can use diagnostic analytics to optimize their operations. For example, if a company is experiencing production delays, diagnostic analytics can help identify the root causes and inform strategies to increase efficiency.

Healthcare: In healthcare, diagnostic analytics can be used to understand the factors contributing to patient outcomes. For instance, by analyzing patient data, healthcare providers can identify the most significant risk factors for certain conditions and develop targeted treatment strategies.

Retail: Retailers can use diagnostic analytics to understand customer behavior and optimize their sales strategies. For example, by analyzing sales data, retailers can identify which products are selling well and why.

Cybersecurity: Diagnostic analytics can be used to understand the factors contributing to security incidents and develop strategies to mitigate these risks. For example, if a company experiences a data breach, diagnostic analytics can help identify the cause and inform strategies to prevent future breaches.

Supply Chain: Diagnostic analytics can help in identifying bottlenecks or inefficiencies in the supply chain. By analyzing shipment, inventory, and logistics data, businesses can better understand where and why delays or losses are happening and make necessary improvements.

Advantages of Diagnostic Analytics

Here are some of the main advantages of diagnostic analytics:

  • Better Understanding of Past Performance: Diagnostic analytics allows businesses to dig into their historical data and understand the reasons behind their successes or failures. It helps to highlight what worked well and what didn’t, thereby providing context for past performance.
  • Enhanced Decision-Making: By understanding why certain outcomes occurred, organizations can make more informed decisions in the future. It allows businesses to base their strategies on data-driven insights.
  • Identification of Trends and Patterns: Diagnostic analytics can uncover patterns, trends, and relationships in the data that might not be immediately apparent. This can lead to new insights that can be leveraged to improve business strategies.
  • Risk Identification and Mitigation: By examining the causes of past events, diagnostic analytics can help identify potential risks and inform strategies to mitigate them. For example, it can help in identifying the factors leading to customer churn or operational inefficiencies.
  • Improved Customer Understanding: Diagnostic analytics can provide a deeper understanding of customer behavior by highlighting the factors that influence purchasing decisions, engagement, and loyalty. This can help organizations to improve their customer experience and build stronger relationships with their customers.
  • Operational Efficiency: By uncovering the root causes of problems or inefficiencies, diagnostic analytics can guide operational improvements, potentially leading to cost savings and performance enhancements.
  • Supports Other Analytic Forms: Diagnostic analytics provides the basis for more advanced forms of analytics. The insights from diagnostic analytics are often used to inform predictive analytics (what is likely to happen in the future) and prescriptive analytics (how we can make it happen).

Disadvantages of Diagnostic Analytics

While diagnostic analytics offers many benefits, it’s important to recognize that it also has some limitations or disadvantages:

  • Depends on Quality of Data: Like all types of analytics, diagnostic analytics is only as good as the data it’s based on. If the data is incomplete, inaccurate, or biased, the conclusions drawn from it may also be faulty.
  • Does Not Predict Future Events: Diagnostic analytics focuses on understanding why something happened, but it does not predict future events or outcomes. It needs to be combined with predictive and prescriptive analytics for a comprehensive analytics strategy.
  • Can Be Time-Consuming: Depending on the complexity of the data and the questions being asked, diagnostic analytics can be a time-consuming process. It often involves digging into large volumes of data to identify patterns and relationships.
  • Requires Expertise: Diagnostic analytics often involves complex statistical analysis and data mining techniques. This requires a certain level of expertise, which may be a barrier for some organizations.
  • Potential for Misinterpretation: There’s always a risk of misinterpretation when dealing with complex data. If the diagnostic analysis is not conducted properly, it could lead to incorrect conclusions and poor business decisions.
  • Cannot Identify All Causes: Even with advanced tools and techniques, it’s not always possible to identify all the factors that contributed to a particular outcome. Some factors may be hidden or simply not included in the available data.

About the author

Muhammad Hassan

Researcher, Academic Writer, Web developer