At the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, we had an interesting conversation on what makes a great data analyst. With a room full of analysts in the room, it's an excellent question. Generally, the team I worked with agreed that there were business analysts and data analysts – and the expectations on each were a bit different.
Business analysts provide information in a format that allows decisions to be made with the business objectives in mind. Data analysts simply provide the data. Both should be qualitatively expressing the data in such a way that its tailored to the audience and the audience is able to draw conclusions with the least confusion possible.
There was a consensus that the power of influence of an analyst is a huge factor. Chris Worland of Microsoft put analysts in 3 discreet buckets – the order taker, the influencer, and the trusted decisioneer. Your organization's culture and structure will determine the weight of your analysts influence.
Andrew Janis boiled it down to an analysts ability to separate interesting versus actionable data. All agreed that the character traits of successful data analysts are the ability to wrap context and around the data and customizing it to the audience, understand the business and the industry, and be a master of visualization.
No doubt that any large company can succeed or fail based on the abilities and influence of their Analysts. For companies that are not large, your employees often wear different hats – everyone has someone analyzing data and providing results. Selecting great analysts (or employees that analyze) is critical to your company's success or failure. Choose wisely.