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Mind the Gap: Building the analyst role of the future

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(Image credit: Image Credit: Pitney Bowes Software)

The UK skills gap is a topic which has been scrutinized long before the pandemic began. In fact, government research has shown that there are around 17.4 million high-skilled jobs available, but only 14.8 million high-skilled workers to fill them. Within the technology and data industry, the statistics are even more staggering. According to research from The Royal Society, demand for employees with specialist data skills has more than tripled to 231 percent over the last five years, compared to a general increase for regular workers of 36 percent. Due to the business turmoil which the pandemic has caused, it is plausible to imagine that this figure has grown even larger, with a new study from CBI stating that 90 percent of all employees across a number of sectors will need to reskill by 2030.

For many years, the tech industry has been a pioneer in terms of innovation and growth, including job creation. The digital transformation which has been taking place over the last decade has had to be accelerated greatly, in order to meet the demands of the pandemic. Throughout the last few months, technology has kept teams aligned, given the world hope for a cure, and allowed businesses to continue operations as normally as possible.

As such, the heart of this has always been data. Although many businesses have access to data and believe that they need to get more out of it, they are missing a central piece of the puzzle: getting more out of their data analysts. To do this, organizations must empower existing data professionals to become analysts of the future, by arming them with the tools they need to upskill and fill ongoing demand, so that they can grow in their role and their business can reap the benefits of a more educated workforce.

The double sided coin to reskilling talent

When beginning a company-wide reskilling process businesses often focus on those who have never been trained in that specific area before. In terms of data democratization, data scientists and analysts can impart their extensive knowledge onto other teams who lack the basics, since they are the powerhouse behind business insights and operations, However, not all of the emphasis should be placed solely on business users - retraining data teams is just as important if businesses want to continue scaling and closing out the skills gap.

Our latest research study, in partnership with TDWI, has revealed that two-thirds of organizations are failing to deliver business impact from their analytics, since analysts are spending a disproportionate amount of time compiling reports and not focusing on the insights for strategic initiatives. This contrasts completely with how the study found that the modern analyst would like their role to develop: away from admin, and into performing advanced analytics or as part of campaign development, as business needs continue to pivot.

Moreover, the study found that only 45 percent of EMEA companies are currently in the process of upskilling their business analysts to become accomplished data scientists, business consultants, or more focused on data architecture and engineering, highlighting that the skills gap is two-fold. Not only are analysts being hindered from applying themselves fully, but other teams are not being immersed in a data-driven culture where they can confidently apply insights without leaning on their data teams for every small task. This friction, coupled with organizations lacking the technological investment needed to upskill their workforce, is limiting their entire workforce from progressing, and ultimately slowing down overall business growth.

Transparency starts with democratization

To combat these challenges, business leaders need to begin by making data accessible to all. Data scientists and analysts agree with this, with 44 percent of survey respondents citing the need to democratize analytics as the top change necessary to become more productive, efficient, and strategic in their roles. To do this, businesses need to implement analytics tools which are simple to use in order to help all employees to gain valuable and on demand insights without the help of a data analyst. This way, data professionals can spend less time on admin and reporting, or other repetitive work, and more time on strategic analysis and furthering their development.

As such, search and AI-driven analytics can be used to provide employees with a clear view of how the business is tracking, helping to answer queries faster and empower everyone to feel comfortable with data. This democratizes data for all and encourages the entire workforce to begin curating a data-driven culture, where analysts become mentors to others, rather than just the go-to team for compiling insights and reports.

Organizations are undoubtedly looking to grow as we navigate the changing business landscape. Their data teams will play a huge role in this transformation, by coaching and encouraging all teams to become more data literate with the help of comprehensive data solutions. Investing in a data transformation like this will give room for the role of the analyst to grow into supporting at a higher level, rather than being simply relied on for all admin.

Looking forward with data

Whilst the skills gap still remains an issue for the UK economy, businesses can take one step in order to get closer to filling the demand, by upskilling their teams and leading with data. The overall value of modernizing analytics is huge — as well as training the workforce, businesses that use sophisticated analytics to power their decision-making are much more likely to reap higher benefits. Examples include better customer satisfaction and feedback, improved products and services, more efficiency, and real impact on revenue. This push to upskill will in turn help to revolutionize the role of the analyst going forwards, taking them away from creating dashboards and reports, and pulling them closer to providing valuable counsel to top management. Teaching employees how to use insights to their advantage diminishes the stereotype that data is to be used by specific job roles only, helping to create and uphold a company culture where data is king.

Spencer Tuttle, VP EMEA, ThoughtSpot

Spencer Tuttle, VP EMEA at ThoughtSpot.