The hottest role in business today: Data Analyst

The hottest role in #MyIndustry right now, or any industry, is that of data analyst. Businesses today have access to more data from more sources than ever, and there is a huge need for people who can get insights from data in order to make decisions that will help drive innovation and profitability.

Back in 2012, the Harvard Business Review called data scientist “the sexiest job of the 21st century.” At the same time, there is a well-documented global shortage of data scientists. Not every company can have a data scientist, or needs one. Technology innovation is bringing a lot of data science functions out of the realm of PhDs and putting them within reach of ordinary business users. These days, whatever your actual job title is, you also need to be a data analyst.

If you use software in your job, you’ve probably already started on this journey with all the data you can access and reports you can configure in the systems you use every day. As systems become more integrated with each other, and new tools make it easier to bring in outside data from social media, smart phones and other web-connected devices, ordinary business users will be able to do much richer and more sophisticated analyses and apply them to business problems.

For example, in my industry–financial technology, specifically, payments for online platforms such as GoFundMe and Freshbooks—mobile payments are what everyone is chasing right now.

The first wave of mobile development was making websites consumable on any mobile device. Now mobile has become people’s first or second screen. What many of our customers have seen is that about 70 percent of their visits come from people on a mobile device, but only about 30 percent of sales transactions do. There’s a big push to understand all kinds of data to make mobile transactions easier and bring those two numbers more in line. So, you might be a mobile designer, but you also need to understand and use data to inform your designs to meet that goal.

To make that happen, you might look at transactional data, website data, operating system data, screen size data, and browser data. We now have really accurate geo-location data that tells us exactly where people are when they’re doing certain things, so you might pull that in as well. The opportunity is to take this information and use it to tweak and optimize the whole mobile experience, ending with a fast, easy mobile payment.

The whole ethos of Fintech is really about making processes frictionless, so people can quickly complete tasks such as filling out a loan application or making a payment while they’re in that critical moment of engagement. If you interrupt that engagement at any point in the process, you may lose them for good. You have to use data to understand where they’re getting stuck and leaving, and then remove those hurdles. That could mean dropping a cookie so a person isn’t required to do a login, or finding a way to use the touchpad on a phone for authentication.

This trend isn’t limited to Fintech or mobile. Consumer expectations are rising across the board, so it’s a competitive imperative to use data to find ways to continually improve your product and your customer experience and maybe even to extend into new areas. Having the right people, not just a slew of data scientists or product managers, but people in business and people in sales that can marry up data analysis with their own expertise to make fact-based decisions is becoming really important. I think that these days everyone needs to have a major and a minor in their career. I’d make data analysis my minor.

As far as things to flee from, I think it’s more important to think about things to go toward. Working with data is a journey. What you find can be surprising. It can challenge old assumptions and raise new questions that beg to be explored. What you learn can potentially take your product or platform in a very different direction. You have to be open to that, and approach data with a spirit of adventure and discovery, always looking for those new opportunities. You have to be willing to not only embrace change, but to go out and create it.

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