What do you do? I’m an analyst.

“So,” my wife’s friend asks, “what do you do?”

I pause for a moment, prepare to say “business analyst”, but then decide not to because I didn’t think she’d understand what I did. I look at my wife and ask her, “what do I do?”, hoping she’d have a better answer.

My wife looks at me, then at her friend, and says, “he’s a business analyst.”

I look at my wife’s friend and she looks back at me. Silence. She gives me a puzzled look.

Food’s here. We eat.

The “what do you do?” question has probably been asked since the dawn of awkward social situations. Since when wives demanded husbands go out on social gatherings with their friends.

But despite it being such a predictable question, it’s something I never really had a satisfying answer to.

It wouldn’t have been so awkward if I was a firefighter, doctor, teacher, butcher, or astronaut  You know, easily definable occupations we all wrote about as kids and coloured in colouring books.

“Business analyst” just doesn’t fit neatly into pre-conceived notions of what a job should be like. It’s rather new-ish, relatively abstract, and not quite defined the same everywhere. Different companies have different meanings for the term.

But I came across an interesting post that contained a little nugget on what a business analyst does. The post is about building a web analytics team, but I think the article is really about building any analytics team, web analytics or not.

From the post: by Jim Sterne, founder of the Digital Analytics Association, about what an “analyst” does:

The magical person called ‘the analyst’ understands all the data and how it is captured and how reliable it is. But they also understand what optimisation is about and what the business process looks like and what the business goals are. The analyst is that magic place in the middle where they understand the desired outcome, they comprehend the big picture and can look at Big Data and ask the right questions. It is the creative part. But they also have to be really good at communicating their insights out to the marketing people and the business strategy folks because if they have a great insight and they don’t know how to communicate it, it doesn’t matter.

Here’s as good a description as any I’ve seen about what an analyst does. Unfortunately not quite the elevator pitch of a business analyst that I can give.

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Donn

My name is Donn, and you’ll find me working at the intersection of business and information technology, constantly looking for ways to apply IT to business and life to make things better. I’m a big fan of data analysis and its subsequent communication. It always gives me a thrill extracting meaning out of data through analysis, and figuring out the best way to present the findings for maximum impact!

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