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8 Principles That Can Make You an Analytics Rock Star

Follow these principles -- many of which are overlooked by traditional methodologies -- and you could become an analytics heavyweight in your organization.

By Bernard Wehbe, Founder and Managing Partner, StatSlice Systems

Great design, high-quality code, strong business sponsorship, accurate requirements, good project management, and thorough testing are some of the obvious requirements for successful analytics systems. As a professional in the field, you must be able to do these things well because they form the foundation of a good analytics implementation. This is good enough for most people but not good enough for you -- if you want to be a high-demand analytics "rock star" and help your organization overcome its critical business challenges.

Successful analytics professionals should follow a set of guiding principles. These principles are often overlooked by traditional methodologies. In this article, we'll explain the eight principles that, once implemented, can make you a rock star in your organization and increase your worth in the marketplace.

Principle #1: Let your passion bloom

If you do not love data analytics, it will be hard to become an analytics rock star. No significant accomplishments are achieved without passion. For many people, passion does not come naturally; it must be developed. Cultivate passion by setting goals and achieving them. Realize that the best opportunity in your life is the one in front of you right now. Focus on it, grow it, and develop your passion for it! That excitement will become obvious to those around you.

Principle #2: Never stop learning

Dig down deeper about the business details of your company. What, exactly, does your company do? What are some of its challenges and opportunities? How would the company benefit from valuable and transformative information you can deliver? Take the time necessary to learn the skills that are valuable for your business and your career. Keep up-to-date with the latest technologies and available analytics tools -- learn and understand their capabilities, functions, and differences.

Deepen your knowledge with the tools that you are currently working on by picking new techniques and methodologies that make you a better professional in the field.

Principle #3: Improve your presentation skills and become an ambassador for analytics

Improve your presentation and speaking skills, even if it is on your own time. Excellent and no-cost presentation training resources are readily available on the internet (for example, at Practice writing and giving presentations to friends and colleagues that will give you honest feedback. Once you have practiced the basic skills, you need to enhance your skills by improving your persuasiveness and effectiveness. You must be able to explain, justify, and "sell" your ideas to colleagues as well as business management. Organizational change does not happen overnight or as a result of one presentation. You need to be persistent and skillful in taking your ideas all the way up the leadership chain.

Principle #4: Be the "go-to guy" for tough analytics questions

Tough analytics problems typically don't have an obvious answer -- that's why they're tough! Take the initiative by digging deep into those problems without being asked. Throw out all the assumptions made so far and follow logical trial and error methodology. First, develop a thesis about possible contributors to the problem at hand. Second, run the analytics to prove the thesis. Learn from that outcome and start over, if needed, until a significant answer is found. You are now well on your way to rock star status.

Principle #5: Ask questions until everything makes sense and you are satisfied with the answers and analyses

What should you do when you get that "uneasy feeling" about results you or a business analyst produce? Do not ignore that gut feeling. Do not stop searching or questioning until things make sense and feel right to you. Top professionals rely significantly on their intuition and give that extra push -- the result will be new insights.

Likewise, ask why a lot! Politely and professionally question everything you hear. Do not make any assumptions. In other words, never take the answers you get at face value. Be a sincere and polite "questioner" of the assumptions and then validate them. Data sources can often be hidden and scattered -- so dig in and find out so that you feel confident in results.

Principle #6: Learn how to develop prototypes quickly

Do not wait for a completely developed data warehouse when quick progress and results are important to management. Sometimes answers are needed immediately -- and the ability to generate quick results is a vital skill for a rock star professional. Get a proof-of-concept working quickly to show others what is possible. This is often the best way to "wow" your users.

Principle #7: Be an advocate for building a strong foundation in corporate analytics

Many source systems have flawed data models, especially new or under-designed production systems. Use your influence to push for better data models for source systems. This is the foundation for good analytics in your enterprise. Your primary goal should be to convince your company to create reliable data contracts (or elements) in the production systems in order to obtain usable and consistent data to feed your organization's analytics.

Principle #8: Be a "bridge builder" between IT and business

Business users can get frustrated with their IT support. IT teams often get frustrated with business users because users are not sufficiently clear about requirements and always want more. Understand this "chasm" and build bridges by acting as the translator or go-between. This skill is the hardest to master in any organization, and those who do will always be in demand.

The Eight Principles

If you are willing to work hard and follow these guiding principles, you can become the data analytics rock star you -- and your enterprise -- want you to be.


Mr. Wehbe has over 14 years of consulting experience focused exclusively on data warehousing and business intelligence. His experience includes data warehousing architecture, OLAP, data modeling, ETL, reporting, business analysis, team leadership, and project management. Prior to founding StatSlice Systems, Mr. Wehbe served as a technical architect for Hitachi Consulting and The Sabre Group in the Dallas, TX area. Mr. Wehbe received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science degree in industrial engineering and management from Oklahoma State University. You can contact the author at [email protected].

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