I have been doing equity research for 14 years and have had to learn a lot about efficiency along the way.
I remember the early days when I was introduced to 10-K filings which I had to read regularly ever since. Fun times those were not. A 10-K filing is a loosely-structured report with a lot of legalese, boilerplate and tables interspersed with text. The 'footnotes' actually make up most of the document, which would take a person typically 3 to 6 hours to read if they decided to read every word. If you thought death by PowerPoint was bad, try reading this on a sunny afternoon. What better way to motivate an aspiring equity analyst, right?
Before I figured out that virtually all 10-K filings were huge, I would typically first read the document in its entirety (minus the bits that were seemingly useless like boilerplate etc.). Then I would do a quick second pass extracting the bits I had found useful and important into a blank Word document. I quickly learnt that I sometimes couldn't find some information I remembered seeing earlier. So I switched to a single-pass review, where I would copy important bits of text. After processing several sources of information for a project (e.g. several 10-K reports and/or various websites and market reports) it became obvious that I also had to keep track of where each bit had come from. Thus, I started preceding each copied excerpt with the source name or URL.
I found Ctrl+C and Ctrl-V shortcuts valuable but insufficient, so I installed a browser add-on that copied selected text automatically. Later I found another add-on that copied text without formatting, so that I didn't have to "Paste as text" any more. These small things add up to a lot of RSI relief and time savings.
I would then review the copied text, keeping only direct citations and my own conclusions, transferring them into my reports. Eventually I decided that copying text into a blank Word file was inefficient, so I started pasting text into my report, making notes along the way. At this stage I had to come up with an efficient way of differentiating copied text from my own, since no one wants to be accused of plagiarism. So I started highlighting copied text with yellow.
While working on a report, I had dozens of browser tabs open with articles to read, sometimes even keeping a list of sources I had processed. I also saved files from the internet for reference, but I had to note where these came from. Sometimes I copied the same text from different sources without noticing it (e.g. the same market reports and press releases published or quoted on different websites), so I had to find the original source, while trimming the redundant text and realizing that instead of several independent sources I only had found just one.
Trying to restore content I had dropped earlier often meant rummaging through the browser history or my Google search history, sometimes without success. Imagine the frustration.
Over the year I have learnt to reduce redundancy in my work, but many of the things cannot be changed easily - an analyst must keep track of sources, separate fact from opinion, choose only reliable data and attribute original content to their authors. Otherwise there's trouble at the end of the tunnel.
People may have different workflows but everyone has to juggle many pieces of information and sources to form an opinion and to support it with evidence. And the job isn't getting any easier as the volume of online data and fake content keeps growing.
When we set out to build Avogadro One, we focused on sci-tech startup research, but the tools we were going to build are useful to almost any kind of research, not just in investing. Thus, we have decided to broaden our focus sooner. We still want to provide tools to sci-tech startup investors, but circumstances dictate that we don't focus on this right away.
If your work involves reading a lot of content from various sources and you're finding it hard to keep out the noise, please answer our questionnaire and sign up for our mailing list. Do feel free to get in touch with me on LinkedIn as well.