Are we ‘Analytics’ trained?

By Debleena Roy

A decade back, Analytics was relatively unheard of except in corridors of companies such as GE or American Express which literally founded the entire industry in India.

Since Analytics was still an esoteric subject back then, these companies and others following in their footsteps recruited post graduates and occasional PhDs who had done courses in Statistics / Economics / Operations Research apart from recruiting MBA students.

They also applied creative judgement and targeted industries which used a lot of analytical thinking such as Consulting, Investment Banking, Market Research, and Credit Rating companies etc. to develop their leadership talent.

And they invested heavily in training.

A new joinee of a company like GE could spend days and indeed weeks immersed in fat SAS books and classroom training sessions organized mostly by proactive leaders who offered their own perspective of how to approach business problems and provide analytical solutions.

Over the last decade, the Analytics industry has grown exponentially. Today, almost every company has an in-house / offshore /outsourced team that provides analytical support for its business across various functions.

As the industry has exploded, so has the need for talent. Analytics training itself has become a big space now with many renowned Indian and foreign institutions offering courses in Analytics. And there are tons of small institutes offering certificate courses on Analytics tools and techniques.

The key question here is – are all the available courses really geared towards making people ready for careers in Analytics?

To solve complex business problems, Analytics professionals need to have a fair understanding of a variety of skills (chart below). Each skill set is unique and complex and requires specialized knowledge. It is not possible often for companies to hire separate people for each skill set; hence there is a need for Analytics professionals to have a balanced mixture of skill sets not just in Analytics techniques but also in Consulting, Soft skills and Data visualization.

The customers for Analytics projects are most often very senior leaders, such as Business Unit Heads or Functional Heads. And they have little patience in reading through one more detailed dashboard and report. Then want to know ‘so what’ and they want to know it in terms as simple and clear as possible.

Indeed, once a person joins a company and starts working on Analytical problems, he/she really needs to focus on areas such as understanding the business model and strategy, asking the right questions, having a tight project management schedule, ability to work remotely and influence key decision makers and last but not the least, ability to create coherent and visual summaries from rows and rows of data and information.

The analytical solutions will fail unless they are strongly linked to the business scenario.

However, most Analytics training courses which have sprung up in the last few years tend to focus only on the first section of training i.e. training on statistical tools and methods.

There is a gap in these trainings that doesn’t cater to the other required skill sets – consulting, soft and data visualization skills.

We need more courses that will focus on developing capabilities of an analytics professional across the various skill set categories.

Hopefully then the people choosing to develop their careers in Analytics will also be able to solve business problems and evolve into business professionals rather than being purely technical, analytics professionals.

After all, analytics cannot really solve business problems if it operates in a silo. And the best way to give Analytics the centre stage it deserves to be integral to a business and drive its strategy is to develop the skills of the people delivering such Analytics solutions.

The author is an analytics practitioner and manager of a business analytics group of a reputed global financial services company and have been working in the Indian analytics industry for more than a decade. She can be reached at mdebleena@yahoo.com.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and may not reflect the opinion of BRIDGEi2i Analytics Solutions or the author’s  employer.