Why you should learn analytics

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Why should you put in the effort to learn about analytics?

 

Because learning analytics is worth it, that’s why. 

 

The specific reason why those skills are important to you may change based on your situation, but the fact that they are important will not.

 

Are you looking for a job?  Analytical skills consistently rank high on lists of employers’ most desired skills[1][2].  The ability to manipulate data to find insights has been in demand for years and will continue to be in demand in the years to come.

 

Analytical skills are also in short supply.  According to an EY survey, just 13% of consumer products CEOs felt confident in their ability to secure talent to translate insight into action[3].

 

Many of the other top skills imply the ability to utilize data as well.  Problem solving often requires the ability to use actual data to determine an optimal course of action.  If sales of our best product are exceeding forecasts what should we do?  Do high sales represent the start of a trend, or are just on the high side of normal?  Is it worth it to have them rush ordered from the factory at an additional cost?  If we shift inventory from another region, will it be enough?  These are typical problems businesses face on a day to day basis that cannot be solved without data.

 

Will analytical skills help you get a job?

 

Yes, absolutely.  Can you learn what you need to know on your own?  Don’t you need to go to college for this?  Few schools have an “analytics” major.  Many people get into the field either through independent study or when they need to learn analytics for something else and then transition to it full time.

 

But what about math, don’t you need to be super good at math?

 

In terms of math, analytics are like rock climbing (hear me out).  You can have fun at a rock climbing gym no matter how little skill you have.  There are routes that anyone can make it up if they are willing to give it their best, and it always feels good to make it to the top.  As you become a better climber there are more routes that you can climb with your increased skill level.  No matter how good you get, there is another more difficult route waiting for you (unless you are Chris Sharma, he might actually be Spiderman).  The point is that climbing is worth the effort, whether you are a novice or an expert.  Analytics are the same way; there are simple analyses that provide enormous value, there are problems that leave PhDs scratching their heads, and there is everything in between.  All of them are worth the effort to attempt.

 

If you already have a job and are interested in moving up, learning to analyze and interpret data is hugely valuable.  Higher level managers often spend their entire day in meetings.  They are being presented with decisions that need to be made.  Only some of the time they are given data, and even fewer times analysis of that data, and they are being asked to make decisions.  Don’t you think that it would make you stand out if you were one of the few that did?

 

Communications and the ability to influence others are also highly related to analytics and the proper use of data.  Imagine your boss typically spends her whole day in meetings.  Which one of these two statements do you think is more likely to sway her towards your recommendation?

 

“We should choose product A over product B because A is better looking and has tons of new features that we can charge more for.”

OR-

“Product B represents a superior opportunity because customer surveys indicate B meets customer needs 37% better and smaller packing means we can fit two more units on the shelf which will improve shelf availability leading to up to 7% more sales.”

 

“Without data you are just another person with an opinion” – W Edward Deming

 

You know what people who spend their whole day in meetings dislike more than anything else?  They hate having their time wasted.  How many employees do you think go into meetings with upper management and clearly communicate their recommendation based on sound analysis in a structured manner?  In my experience both as an employee and as a consultant talking with the highest level business leaders the answer is very few do.  Don’t you think your management will remember when you do?

 

You will stand out in a great way when you blow management away with data.  When you have done that once or twice, who do you think that next stretch opportunity will go to?

 

What if you do not want to stay at your company, either there is no room to move up or you cannot see yourself staying there more than absolutely necessary, will analytics help you find another job?

 

Yes, absolutely.  The primary thing that companies look for in someone who will handle and make decisions with data is a track record of successfully doing so.  There is not an agreed upon certification in analytics the same way there are in some other industries.  If you want to work in project management a PMP is nearly a necessity.  If you want to work as an accountant you typically need to be a CPA.  There is nothing like that in analytics.  Companies cannot rely on a certification to ensure you know the basics; they must look to your resume for examples of where you have utilized your skills with data to make a difference.

 

What about the people making decisions?  If you are in upper management or an entrepreneur making decisions for your own company, do you benefit from learning about analytics?

 

Yes!  The more ownership you have the more you will benefit from learning these techniques.  The faster sales grow the more you will benefit.  The more you can cut costs, more savings will flow to your bottom line.  Even simple analysis can help you do both, grow sales and cut costs.

 

I will help you do all of this.  Together we build the necessary skill set and walk through how to perform simple analyses yourself.  Stay tuned for future posts that show how some times the most simple can be the most beneficial.  I will also teach you to make sense of the dashboards you may see and show you how to take action based on them.  If you follow my methods you will blow your bosses away when you communicate a well supported recommendation in a structured format.

 

Keep reading The Analytics Dude and we can take the journey from data to analysis to insight to results together.

 

 

[1] https://www.thebalance.com/top-skills-employers-want-2062481

[2] http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2014/11/12/the-10-skills-employers-most-want-in-2015-graduates/#51b63a5d19f6

[3] EY/Forbes Insights Global Analytics Survey, 2016

5 thoughts on “Why you should learn analytics

  1. Great comment Eric. What is your thought on tools for those of us who think analytics are important but don’t plan to become data scientists? Are Excel and Minitab sufficient, or do I need to invest some time learning R?

    1. Great question Brooks, and I think that is an excellent idea for a future post. In the mean time the short answer Excel is typically sufficient, and Minitab is nice for doing six sigma stuff. SQL is necessary to get data to analyze from many databases. R is powerful and free, but requires coding and is overkill for a beginner.

  2. Eric,
    I’m convinced on analytics, especially with the example of approaching my boss with a recommendation using data and statistics instead of intuition and opinion.

    I’d like to learn a bit more about how I can convince my boss to make an important and expensive decision using my data, especially since I am not a PhD in statistics and it is not my primary role. How do I convince him or her that there isn’t a better, obscure statistical solution lurking in the halls of universities or PhD research papers?

    1. Hey Rob,
      That is a good question and worthy of another post…I’ll put it on the list. The short answer is the situation you describe is rarely the issue. The decision is typically between a decision based on intuition or one based on sound analysis. There are often questions about assumptions for analysis and why you feel this approach was appropriate. Does that make sense? I’ll come up with a more complete answer in future posts when I have time to give it some thought and structure.

      1. Yes, that makes sense. Glad to hear it’s rarely an issue. I look forward to that post and every post in between.

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