The traditional career path for most business analysts is to start in Accounting or Finance and then jump into a managerial role. While this may be the most efficient process for sourcing quantitative talent, it is not necessarily the most effective. Many companies are beginning to realize that the benefit of having great Analysts is in creating value and wealth rather than in creating reports. For the latter you just need to learn some technical skills, but for the former you need to be exposed to experiences that are not available to the typical corporate analyst. The best Analysts that I have ever trained have work experiences that have instilled in them the “business maturity” that is so crucial to the analytics profession. Here are the four experiences, in my opinion, that the best analysts share.
Worked for their own business. Creating a product or service that increases the size of a bank account is a life altering experience. Whether you succeed or fail, running your own business changes your view of the world and helps you become a person that can quickly separate what’s business from what’s busy-ness. I find that many analysts often forget that the point of their profession is to put more money in their employer’s bank account. Analytics is not about systems, reports or even data. It’s about finding a way to add more money to the bank than could have otherwise been added if the Analytics had not existed. It is therefore never surprising to me that young analysts that have a family business background or have a side business are more practical in their analytical approach and decision making style than those that don’t.
Worked both ends of the quality spectrum. In many industries, analysts are often pigeonholed into a certain class of product. For example, Luxury goods analysts rarely move into Economy and vice versa. Yet, I have met a few analysts who have worked both ends of the value spectrum and they all have a knowledge base of tactics and strategies that is impressive. They also tend to have a certain “wisdom” about the analysis that actually delivers value and those that are a waste of time. That’s rarely true for analysts that have only worked within one class of product in their industry.
Worked throughout the value chain. The best business analysts keep a “Full P&L” perspective. Again, the whole point of any activity in analytics is to increase profit and no one understands that better than those analysts that have been exposed to the challenges faced by Operation, Marketing, Sales, and even HR. In the era of data proliferation the trend is to insulate analysts into a specific function so that they can become “experts” at the data of a specific domain. In my opinion that is exactly the opposite of what companies should be doing. It should be obvious that the best analysis should incorporate a 360 degree of the interactions of every participant in the supply chain.
Worked in other functions. Too often, the Finance and Accounting functions are populated by “lifers”. That is, they studied finance and then only worked in finance. While I appreciate the passion, I have noticed that many business analysts often lack the ability to “think outside the proverbial box” because they don’t have much to draw on for creative inspiration. Taking into account the often contradictory viewpoints, motivations, and goals of all departments is critical for the maturation of the insights delivered by any analyst. This is specially true for the data sciences functions which is not only still a developing profession but also sits at the crossroads of many different functions.
Worked in other industries. Bringing ideas, concepts, and innovations from other industries is critical for the development of any industry. This is specially true for the data sciences function which is not only still a developing profession but also sits at the crossroads of many different functions. Far too often, companies hire analysts that have “been there and done that”. What I have realized is that these “industry” analysts regularly bring the same inefficiencies they learned at their previous job to their new role. Great analytics insights often comes from looking at problems with a fresh perspective and that is why cross-industry experience can be so valuable.
The most effective business analysts have a breadth and depth that goes beyond their profession. That quality is usually the result of having purposefully or accidentally acquired know-how that falls outside of the traditional analytical skill set. Today’s push for analytical specialization is therefore a mistake. In order for today’s business analysts to be more effective at creating wealth for their companies, an intentional effort will have to be made to expose them to more “business” rather than “function” focused experiences.
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Robert Hernandez, Statistical Analysis and Data Mining for Revenue Growth Robert is an expert in the field of mathematical Hotel Optimization and Analytics. He has spent the last 17 years building data-driven forecasting and optimization models for companies in over 20 different industries, from tech to tourism. Robert possesses a very unique skill set including cross-disciplinary experience, advanced mathematical and analytics skills, data transformation, industry-specific knowledge and business-process improvement expertise. Robert began his career at the Walt Disney Company in Revenue Planning. Read More+