In today's era, so many businesses today relying heavily on data about their customers, products, processes, inputs and the market, these organizations are increasingly in need of talented, skilled people who can extract information and insights from the data.
But what skills are employers looking for In data analytics, there are some skills and qualities employers require of all applicants, regardless of the position. Education will hone some of these skills and abilities. Others can be sharpened with experience and practice. Following are the top some skills:
If you want your role as a data analyst to be broader and to have more impact, you need to gain a solid understanding of how the business works. Look beyond KPIs and last months top 10 selling items.
What is the business strategy, what is its position in the market, and how does it differentiate itself from its competitors? What are the critical processes in the organization and how are the different products, departments, and people connected? Where do dependencies lie and what are the threats to success?
While you cannot know everything, building your business knowledge through your work and your relationships will make you even more valuable as an analyst. Business knowledge will improve your understanding of the company's data, helping you to identify early warning signs, and seek out the right people to answer questions and share information with.
As a data analyst, you work with software, systems, and data. Putting these elements together in a way that extracts meaningful insights from raw data requires technical skills and a willingness to continue growing these skills to keep up with the developments of technology.
Technical understanding grounded in curiosity and interest will serve you well in this industry. Does the idea of using data and analyzing, shaping and transforming it into visible insights excite you? Do you like the idea of taking the raw inputs and turning it into something meaningful for the business (or the public) that tells a story about a certain topic or discovery? That is a great foundation to build on.
Understanding the data value chain helps you to put everything into context. Many systems and touchpoints are involved in the end-to-end process and it will make your life easier to understand how they are connected and who is responsible for which part.
- Where did the data come from?
- Why was it data collected, how and by whom?
- What transformation steps did it go through?
- Where is it stored?
- How can you access it and who has access to it?
- What tools do you have available for analysis?
- What questions do your stakeholders have?
- Who is the audience for your insights and what actions do they intend to take based on your findings?
- What happens with your findings once you share them?
- What impact has your analysis had? Are there visible results in decision-making?
As a data analyst, you do not just communicate through and with data but also with stakeholders, colleagues, data suppliers, system owners, and many others in the process of developing insights for decision-making.
When you share information, it is important to consider the right medium. Does your organization embrace digital, interactive and exploratory dashboards for decision-making or are you required to provide print-ready materials for a reading through? Who is your audience and what are they looking for? Where is your audience and how do language, culture and dispersed geographical locations influence the way you communicate your findings? What are the timeframes for sharing information?
Improving your communication skills, verbally, written and through the use of data, will serve you well in the long-run.
Stakeholder management skills
Your stakeholders are your customers. Their need for information is what drives your analysis. Stakeholders are an important piece in the puzzle and the larger the group gets or the bigger their influence, the more difficult it can be to find the solution that addresses their needs.
When you work with your stakeholders and gather their requirements through discussions, interviews, and research, it is important to understand their expectations and to manage these with regard to timeframes, available data, people and resources.
Show your stakeholders how to use what you have created. On the one hand, it should be intuitive and simple to do so, and including instructions is recommended. On the other hand, you cannot foresee all possible paths a user might take through an interactive data visualization, so an introduction for your audience will be helpful. In your engagement with stakeholders, try to foster an ongoing exchange of ideas and information so you stay close to their business and their needs for insights while they receive input from you on data and systems.
Critical thinking involves going (and thinking) above and beyond that task at hand. When do you ask yourself questions like what does this mean? and what impact could this have on a process you start going off the beaten track and diving deeper into the data in front of you.
Looking at outliers should always prompt further investigations. What does a spike in the data indicate? Is it an insignificant anomaly or could it be something important that you need to evaluate further?
Visual analytics can support your critical thinking processes because it allows you to look at data from different perspectives in a short amount of time. When you find a particularly interesting data point, you can easily and quickly investigate it using different chart types, introducing time dimensions or details about other parts of the business to give you a new view. Exploring different angles for the same situation helps you answer some of your questions and assess whether you should pursue things further. Consider yourself a researcher and an investigator.
Many analysts can share their work digitally with a broad and large audience through the click of a button. There are situations, however, when you need to present your insights and reports in person to a live audience.
For this reason, it is important to hone these skills, so that your findings are shared effectively, in a polished manner. A clear structure that is easy to follow and communicates key insights in a logical order sets the right tone. As you present, focus on what is important and know how to navigate your way around interactive dashboards.
A very valuable approach to take is to not limit your answers to the obvious questions that led to your analysis in the first place but to also anticipate potential follow-up questions. This comes back to knowing and understanding your business and your stakeholders. What are they interested in, what are their priorities and dependencies right now?
Having answers to questions that they might ask comes in very handy during question time. And if you do not have the answer, be prepared with a follow-up process you can propose to them. Know how and when you will be able to find and share the answers to their follow-up questions. Preparation is key and listening to your stakeholders and anticipating their needs will help you build your credibility and brand internally.
Data visualization skills:
It does not matter what tool you use and whether you share insights digitally or on a whiteboard. Being able to paint a comprehensive picture that shows what is going on is a very important skill to have.
This can be as simple as drawing a process flow on a whiteboard. Many disagreements can be cleared up when there is a picture that serves as a starting point. You will often communicate your insights in a report, interactive dashboard or chart. To do this most effectively, make sure you pick the right chart type for the data and design your work in a way that shows key findings clearly and quickly.
To make a start on improving your skills, identify some areas from this article and set yourself realistic goals for working on them. Professional growth and development take time to take your first step towards your analytical career.