TotalCIO

Apr 8 2014   6:07PM GMT

Seven not-so-obvious roles your analytics pro will have to play

Nicole Laskowski Nicole Laskowski Profile: Nicole Laskowski

What skills do CIOs and IT leaders either need to develop or bring in-house to take on big data and advanced analytics? According to Carol Rozwell, that question isn’t necessarily the best place to start.

“We should begin with the problems we’re trying to solve,” said Rozwell, an analyst for the Stamford, Conn.-based consultancy Gartner Inc., at the recent Gartner Business Intelligence and Analytics Summit.

Phrasing initial questions from a business perspective — such as, “How will the analysis be used once it’s completed?” — can shine a light on both specific skills and soft skills that can help round out a candidate profile. That, in itself, could be a differentiator because, Rozwell said, most companies look for a candidate who can fill vague requirements such as excellent communications skills or works well with others. “Will those types of general statements bring us the people we’ll need?” she asked.

After speaking with vendors, consultants and businesses, Rozwell created a list of seven not-so-obvious roles analytics pros and data scientists will have to play within the enterprise. CIOs looking to draft up a job description might want to take note. They are:

1. Storytellers. The ability to explain analytics to different constituencies across the organization is essential and will “help the business person understand exactly what the information is and … how the analysis can be applied,” Rozwell said.

2. Artisans. Vendors are forging new ground in the world of visual analysis, but they’re also creating what Rozwell called “a blind spot.” Visualizations, she said, aren’t necessarily self-explanatory, and an employee’s ability to consume a visualization “will vary based on the experience and background of the decision maker,” Rozwell said. CIOs and IT leaders should find someone who can bridge the gap.

3. Behaviorists or social anthropologists. People are idiosyncratic, so an analytics pro who is aware that employees do and will react to new information in ways that may not be logical or rational will go a long way. “Regardless of geographic orientation, background, any other dimensions you might cut, we all have instinctive reactions to situations,” Rozwell said.

4. Detectives. Seek out nosiness and someone who is interested in “searching through and ferreting out information that may not be intuitively evident,” she said. Also, find candidates with a passion for finding the truth because, Rozwell said, any data set is inherently biased. CIOs and IT leaders will want to find people who know when “there is enough information, enough analysis, enough modeling to ensure they’re representing at least a facsimile of the truth,” she said.

5. Philosophers. “This was my best label for the person who needs to deal with ambiguity,” Rozwell said. New information, such as unstructured data, will change as the situation does. Analytics pros should take that into consideration and be aware they’re only analyzing “a snapshot of a point in time,” she said.

6. Jazz musicians and improv actors. Find someone who is creative and can build off of others on the team (like a jazz musician). Improv adds another dimension: When improv actors are on stage, rejection is not an option. and they mix every on-the-fly idea into the skit. Rozwell believes the same concept should hold true for analytics professionals. “We’re all contributing,” she said. “We need to keep testing out [ideas] to make sure we’re poking at the right issues for the business.”

7. Conductors. Find someone with the ability to bring different kinds of people together and “help them focus on a single business outcome,” Rozwell said.

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  • Ben Rubenstein
    These are definitely key skills of analytics professionals - but more and more this stuff is applying to a variety of job roles. Storytelling, social anthropology and improv are necessary skills for almost anyone working in the business world. 
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