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What is an analytics professional?

Wednesday, 3rd July 2013

I was sitting at the IAPA conference as Doug presented the results of the IAPA salary survey, and was surprised at the distribution of experience that members have.  In summary, despite many members having had long careers, most stated that they had only been working in analytics for 0-6 years.

To say I was surprised is an understatement.  Given the number of respondents I am assuming the distribution is representative, and will proceed on that basis.

I have always (that's 20-25 years) considered myself an "analysis" professional, although admittedly I struggled for a long time to explain that concept to people.  So maybe I am being to broad in my definition of what it means to be an analytics professional. Maybe I am a fraud!!

There were some good presentations on this topic at the conference - in particular Rod Bryan, Steve Bennett and Jim Sterne all discussed some of the qualities that make a good analyst.  Of course when I say they were good I mean I agreed with a lot of their points.

So I will tell you a little about some of the roles I have had and you can decide for yourself whether that makes me a professional analyst or not.

After a brief (< 1 year) stint as a graduate trainee at CBA, my first substantive role was working for the NSW Health Department providing advice on bed planning (how many hospital beds there should be) and resource allocation (that's budget allocation).  I also looked at the impact of introducing case-mix funding in one of the Area Health Services.  Full time analyst? No.  Applied analysis to support decsions? Yes.

I finally left to go travelling (I have a career habit of quitting good jobs with promising prospects, but maybe that will be the subject of another post), I ended up at the health insurer MBF, where my role included pricing, gross margin analysis and, when they started developing a data warehouse, business intelligence manager. 

I have worked at Coca-Cola and McDonalds, where they call the analysts "Business Insights" staff.  More recently I was the Customer Analytics Manager at AMP - a role more obviously associated with  analytics as it is spruiked by vendors and consultants.

My current role is more about data collection and BI than the analysis end of things - to be totally honest with the number of staff I have I am now a manager of people more than anything else - but I still maintain that I am an analytics professional.  Why?

In every position I have had I have worked towards improving the data available and analysis used to inform business decisions.  And that, to me, is what being a professional in the analytics space is all about.

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