Associations: Get to Know Your Data Analyst

Recent research unveils common characteristics among data analysts, with the goal of helping organizations hire and retain this type of professional—an increasingly important role in the age of big data.

Who are the people behind the data driving business intelligence strategies around the country?

I don’t think you’d have a lot of people disagree that finding an individual—a business analyst or someone who is focused on analytics—is critical to running the business.

That’s what the International Institute of Analytics (IIA) and Talent Analytics Corp. set out to uncover in their joint 2012 Analytics Professionals Study, which surveyed 302 U.S. data analysts last year about their current job roles and backgrounds.

The answer: Most of these professionals are male (72 percent), young (57 percent are under 40), and relatively new to their roles (88 percent reported they have been in their current analytics positions for less than five years).

The goal of the study was to provide solid information about data analysts’ behaviors and backgrounds to help businesses better hire and retain them.

“We can confirm that talent is among the top three requests we get from our clients, from enterprises who are trying to build out their programs,” Jack Phillips, CEO of IAA, said during a webinar discussing the study’s findings. “We’re trying to put hard edges around some of the anecdotal beliefs that some have around … this elusive, finicky, hard-to-keep group.”

For example, organizations are often looking for creative data analysts, Pasha Roberts, CTO of Talent Analytics, said during the webinar, and one way they commonly go about it is by looking for data analysts with “creative” degrees (i.e. degrees in music, art, etc.). But the study found an insignificant number of respondents had degrees in those areas, indicating that businesses should find other ways of measuring creativity in data analysts.

The study also found that approximately 80 percent of data professionals work in groups of less than 10 people, which has implications for being able to work and perform well in small teams.

Understanding the characteristics of a “typical” data analyst is as important for associations as for businesses. Associations have a similar need to extract meaning from the mountain of data they accumulate from members and other stakeholders.

“I don’t think you’d have a lot of people disagree that finding an individual—a business analyst or someone who is focused on analytics—is critical to running the business,” said Patrick Dorsey, vice president of marketing at Avectra, a provider of membership-management software solutions.

Dorsey said research such as the 2012 Analytics Professionals Study can be helpful to associations in better defining what a data analyst is and making a case for hiring one.

“It’s always good to be able to validate with other data and to demonstrate why or how this role will benefit [the organization],” Dorsey said.  “Associations have to break the status quo and leverage the data that will allow them to be more relevant, be top of mind, and communicate more clearly to the right person at the right time. It’s a commitment, and you have to find the right person.”

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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