Magic in any field happens when expert creators of a tool meet an expert user of the tool – whether that be in Formula-1 Car Racing or taking a Rocket to Mars or a Data Analyst using all the capabilities at her disposal. Expert Mathematicians, Statisticians, Computer Science professionals can create wonderful capabilities for your business – but it is the data analysts who translate that into valuable insights that business can use and reap huge profits from.

Alas, finding great data analysts is just as hard as finding greatness in any field. On paper, it should not be the case – since a lot of data analysis is an exercise in applying logic in seeking answers to business questions, combined with a good sprinkling of business knowledge. Unfortunately, that is a bit like saying everyone who can jog can be like Usain Bolt. As those with even a minimal experience in Data Analysis know, questions are always followed by more questions, which can often require digging back into the data, sometimes in new and unexpected ways. It also requires making certain assumptions and leaps when the data is inadequate – but then taking the pains to re-verify those assumptions when knowledge about the area improves.

As any capability creator knows – their creation gets used in completely unintended ways – and the best data analysts are experts at that. Once they develop an intuitive feel for what that capability is doing for them – they bring to bear their considerable breadth of knowledge and connect the dots in new and delightful ways, constantly surprising the business with insights delivered.

Now, the growth in capabilities of analytical data products has increased the possibility of getting prescriptive recommendations – however, even in the creation of prescriptive recommendations, the role of a data analyst is not to be underestimated. Furthermore, there are far too many (data-driven) questions that need to be answered in any business than can be handled by a series of prescriptive models.

The reality, though, is that in the bright spotlight cast by data science capabilities, what with Google winning the “Go” game, and Tesla’s self-driving cars,  the data analyst’s role has taken a back-seat in overall considerations of a data-driven organization. But this is a big hole that ends up hurting organizations, both in short- and long-term as the great data analysts are the crucial last-mile between superb capabilities and great ROI for the business.

Time to undertake “Data Analysts – Reloaded!”



Sri Srikanth

Advanced Data Analytics & Strategy, Senior Data Scientist, Cisco Digial