The Decision Maker

Confessions of the Analysis Guy

Posted by Aaron Wang on Jul 9, 2011 5:14:14 PM

I am the “Analysis Guy”. I am the person in your organization (woman or man) who you depend on to get information when standard reports don’t provide what you need to know.

I’m that “go to” person when information is needed. I’m the de facto Excel Guru who knows more about spreadsheets than anyone else in the organization. I get calls from all over the office for impromptu Excel “how to” advice.

I really like Excel. It is such a flexible tool for reporting and analysis. I admit, though, it might be a bit too flexible. You see, sometimes I get a cell calculation or two wrong and I can’t get the numbers to tie out right away. I do my best but I don’t have an automated way to check for data quality in my reports and I usually update my data manually.

I get a lot of requests for reports. Managers call me all the time to send them a report with a slightly different analytical angle than the last one I sent. I used to be able to turn these requests around in a few hours. Now, because of so many requests, I am backlogged for over a week.

This might be my first job out of college. I’m pretty tech savvy even though I don’t have a Computer Science degree. I could also be a long-time employee who has evolved into the job by virtue of my company knowledge, experience, and relationships.

Sometimes I work within the Information Technology (IT) department but it is uncommon. Most often, I work in a non-IT part of the business. This is because the “business” had unsuccessfully tried to get information from IT in the past. My position was created to fill the gap.

I do work closely with IT but it is mostly via informal connections. Over time, I’ve earned the trust of a lot of rank and file IT people. They help me get access to data and guide me through IT processes.

The VP of Information Services isn’t too fond of my role, however. At that level, what I do is perceived as an encroachment on IT’s turf. Yet, the VP hasn’t been able to change the situation since IT has not successfully made a case for an alternative for what I do.

Why hasn’t the case been made? In the past, expensive, large-scale efforts to build data repositories and reporting systems have frequently been disappointing for organizations brave enough undertake them. That experience has scared off decision makers in other organizations.

I’ll let you in a little secret, though. Things have changed. The technology for delivering effective, less-costly reporting and analytics solutions has been slowly making its way into the mainstream. Many forward-thinking organizations are taking on smaller, “proof-of-concept” projects to gain experience with these new technologies.

Another change is a greater degree of business and IT collaboration to undertake these projects. To be honest, my role is dysfunctional. It is sign IT has not been able to deliver a sufficient decision support capability to the business. Now, the tools exist to allow IT to deliver on the decision support front but the business side needs to engage and clearly articulate its information needs.

Now that the truth is out, will I lose my job? These new technologies allow managers to perform their own analyses on data that has been systematically updated and checked for quality. What do they need me for? As it turns out, I am needed more than ever to communicate the increasingly sophisticated information needs of the business.

Now, rather than churn out reams of tactical reports, my role takes on a more strategic perspective. Since I am so familiar with the underlying data, I am naturally an integral part of bringing the next generation of reporting and analytics into being.

So, now I’ve revealed all my dark secrets. My next step is a recommendation to my bosses to sit down with IT and map out a path to better reporting and analytics for the organization. They’ll listen to me. I’m the Analysis Guy.

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