The role of data analyst has gotten more difficult in recent years. Modern companies generate millions of valuable data points every minute, need it processed hourly, and expect actionable reports on what’s changing in their data daily. But with more data available than ever before, this need for speed makes the stewardship of data – knowing where it’s coming from, how it’s changing, and what that means for the business – a bigger and bigger job.
However, as next-generation BI platforms become mainstream over the next few years, analysts will see their role not only growing, but also evolving laterally, driven by two main factors: a changing data culture and new data tools.
The first factor – data culture – is straightforward. The availability of data at a massive scale coming from 20 billion-plus connected devices in the world has whet virtually every company’s appetite for data-driven decision making – and barring the collapse of civilization itself, that’s not going to change. What that means for analysts is that their job is an increasingly important one. They’ll no longer be seen as ad-hoc report factories. Instead, they’ll be handed more responsibilities and given a seat at the table – if they don’t already have one.
That said, emerging, next-generation BI tools will be the driving force of change in an analyst’s role. New analytics platforms are already capable of processing billions of queries within seconds, making it possible to convert the analyst’s historically concierge-esque role into a much more autonomous, proactive one. Automation makes problem-solving easier and analysts’ jobs less robotic and routine.
The importance of that role change is hard to overstate. As consolidated, accessible data allows the business to ask exponentially more questions, empowering analysts to become more efficient by orders of magnitude equates to a huge competitive advantage.
However, it’s not just about more work or less work. The work being done by the analysts of tomorrow will be different. With automation freeing up more time, analysts will have a chance to devote attention to more pressing, valuable problems than basic data tracking. What exactly they do will depend on the business they’re in and the tools they use – but almost certainly, it will include both of the following:
1. Strategic Insights
The average data analyst is a highly intelligent, highly skilled person with plenty of creativity and ambition. Freeing up time from tedious manual tasks is a catalyst that will allow them – and the companies they work for – to leverage those traits for the purposes of developing and testing new ideas that are informed by data.
Today, most analysts find themselves in reactive roles: reactive to the data and reactive to their team members’ needs. New BI capabilities mean they can become proactive instead, showing up to meetings with strategic insights and questions of their own, not just responses to everyone else’s.
2. Education and Enablement
The power and ease of new processing platforms will make data repositories more useful across departments – but only if the right people know how to use those platforms. Part of an analyst’s evolving role will be bridging that gap. It might look like showing other users how to interact with a dashboard, or configuring alerts and dynamic feeds for their personalized needs.
Today’s analyst largely does the job of a firefighter, constantly responding to calls for assistance. Tomorrow’s analyst will have the luxury of hooking up the fire hose to all the necessary users and letting it run. The reality is that the data is already available to most of the people who need it, but emerging BI capabilities are what enables them to make use of it efficiently.
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The platforms, capabilities, and roles described above aren’t coming soon, they’re here now. The CDOs and analysts embracing them are already making immediate impacts on their companies and careers, driving change, and creating positive outcomes. Businesses will lag, of course, so reactivity will continue to be a defining feature of the analyst’s role in many organizations for years to come. But the future leaders are the ones who see the opportunity to make the role an active one and seize it.