Callcredit Blog

Are there too many analysts?

Consumer Marketing Data

As a result of winning a few big pitches, a natural increase in demand for insight services, people moving to new roles internally and externally, as well as maternity cover, I have been in constant recruitment mode for the last two years. What I’m looking for is an analyst with 3 to 5 years of experience, in a marketing environment, strong SAS skills and statistical modelling experience. It doesn’t sound like a big ask, but it is. At the moment analytical talent is in scarce supply worldwide, a report by McKinsey Global Institute described it as a “Critical Shortage of Data Geek Talent”. The report goes on to forecast a “50 to 60 percent gap between the supply and demand of people with deep analytical talent” in the next few years.

The reason for this shortage is that businesses have finally realised that there is a vast amount of information locked in the data that they have been gathering for the last few years, and in the data sources that they have yet to tap into – e.g. social media. This behavioural, demographic, attitudinal data etc., is vital to maximizing the value of the customer, retaining their business, sending them relevant communications/offers and therefore creating profitable relationships. This should also be the foundation of all prospecting activity, understanding the type of customer you want to recruit, the offer that will work and the channel that should be employed.

It is great news for us in the insight world, as “Data Geeks” are now fashionable, move over David Beckham all hail Sheldon Cooper (I appreciate he is a physicist, but I love Big Bang!). It also offers us greater potential in the long term, not just in terms of more interesting projects, especially with the advent of so many additional sources of data, whether structured or unstructured, but also in terms of career potential. It is clear that the new frontiers of business lie in how well companies understand and use their data.

This need has given rise to the Chief Data Officer, a role that would have solicited raised eyebrows only 3 years ago, but is now seen as fundamental for success in the new economic model where data is recognised as a strategic asset. These guys will take responsibility for issues such as effective data access, leveraging the data, monetising that data, data governance, visualisation, exploiting internal data and acquisition of new data sources etc.

So if there is a worldwide shortage, why have I asked “Are there too many analysts?” The answer is clearly not, however, it brings me back to a major concern of mine – the lack of understanding as to what an analyst actually is. Just because a person has Analyst or Data in their title, it does not mean they are the type of analyst that will be able to do the work that I have outlined above. This frustration came to a head just last week, when I received a CV from a recruitment consultant (not one on our preferred supplier list I hasten to add, the e-mail exchange went along the following lines:

Recruitment Consultant: Please find attached the CV of a Big Data Analyst that I believe would be perfect for your role

The attached CV stated “Big Data Platform Engineer”, and was littered with references to analytical solutions and analytical platforms. The guy was a developer and probably a very good one!

Moi: Please could you only send CVs that are relevant to the roles I have on offer.

Recruitment Consultant: My apologies. I didn’t realise that the insight department at Callcredit Group hasn’t reached this level yet. I will remove you from my list for the time being.

At this point I must have looked like Yosemite Sam – my eyes turning red, steam coming out of my ears and fury coming from my mouth. However I managed to keep my response vaguely civilised!

An apology quickly followed from the Recruitment Consultant. While this is an extreme example it is not a surprising one; as despite the demand being high there is still a huge lack of understanding regarding what an analyst does and the different specialisms that exist. Just to illustrate the point I googled the term “Data Analyst”, went to a recruitment page and here are some examples of the results returned – and this was just in the first few pages!!

Business Analyst, BI Analyst, MI Analyst, Information Analyst, Reporting Analyst, Data Analyst, Statistical Analyst, Insight Analyst, Customer Insight Analyst, Customer Behaviour Analyst, Modelling Analyst, Regression Analyst, Marketing Analyst, Credit Risk Analyst, Risk Analyst, Credit Analyst, Fraud Analyst, Solutions Analyst, Database Analyst, Forensic Analyst, SAS Analyst, SPSS Analyst, Forecasting Analyst, Campaign Analyst, Performance Analyst, Digital Analyst, Web Analyst, PPC Analyst, Social Analyst, Digital Performance Analyst, Strategic Analyst, SEO Analyst, GIS Analyst, Network Planning Analyst and Retail Analyst.

Add on all the levels to the above – Graduate, Executive, Senior, Consultant, Manager, Head of, Director etc and the problem is exacerbated even further.

Clearly some of these are very specialist roles, but they are all returned under the search term “Data Analyst”. The problem isn’t made easier with the introduction of titles such as Data Scientist, this is described as an evolution of the data analyst role, to include “strong business acumen, coupled with the ability to communicate findings to both business and IT leaders”, what a load of old tosh, I expect any good analyst to do this! Last week I was at a conference where analysts were described as Data Doctors, what next explorers, drillers, even data dentists – is this because we identify when models decay!

I guess where I am going with this is simple; we need to bring some clarity to our industry and explain what we do and how we do it. The myth that analytics is a black art done by “Data Geeks” that are locked in a room somewhere must be brought to an end. We need to stop these marketers coming up with wild and wonderful titles for people that in the end are just good with numbers! The suggestion that an analyst that can talk to another person is now a data scientist, is somewhat condescending,  I have a team full of analysts that can do this.

If we can achieve this, then the next time I’m looking to recruit a Senior Marketing Analyst, I will be sent CVs for people with 3 to 5 years’ experience, in a marketing environment, strong SAS skills and statistical modelling experience (I hope)!

Author: Gary Childs

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