Data analysts often get handed data directly with homework and exams. In recent years, it's been common to download publicly available data. But students rarely hear about processes for obtaining private and controlled datasets, let alone actively experience such a process. Almost none are actually involved in deploying models they've created. Many IT professionals complete their education without any exposure to advanced data analysis, so they may be unaware of or misunderstand the needs of data analysts.
It's been common for data analysts to work around IT in any way possible. That's never a good practice, and it can have serious consequences for an organization. As data volumes increase, it's also becoming an impossible practice. Data analysts who have been avoiding IT involvement now find there's no other option.
Yet the two groups still don't speak quite the same language, and they don't understand each other's concerns very well. If data analysts and IT staff are ever to partner effectively, they'll need to bridge the gulf in language and understanding. This transition isn't going to come easily, so they're going to need help. Business analysts are the right people to provide that help.
Business analysts (often known as systems analysts) are experts in facilitating business process change. They are uniquely equipped to help data analysts and IT cooperate productively. As the International Institute of Business Analysts (IIBA) puts it, "Business Analysis is the practice of enabling change in an organizational context, by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders."
Many data analysts are not even aware that business analysts exist, but business analysts are keenly aware that advanced analytics is growing in importance. They want to know more about analytics and the role they can play.
The IIBA website sports advertising for degree programs in analytics. At a talk I gave for the IIBA, the room was packed -– every chair filled, plus people standing in every corner. They were listening, really listening, to what I had to say. Not one person peeked at a laptop, tablet, or phone. They've asked me back to teach them more about analytics.
Now it's time for us data analysts to show them same interest in them.
Business analysts can help us define what we require to support our work in terms that IT can understand. They can help us ensure we get what we need without breaking any laws or exposing our employers to unnecessary business risk. They can make us more aware of how our work impacts other areas of the organization. And they can help us understand why and how to work more effectively with IT.
You can learn more about business analysts through the IIBA, which has local chapters around the world.
Are you working with business analysts? Please share your experience.