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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

5 Minutes with an Analyst: Sana Narani of Logi Analytics

If you're starting out as an analyst, be prepared to embrace the "Wild West" of data.

Sana Narani is the director of marketing operations at Logi Analytics, where he provides data analysis support to sales and marketing operations and management. Previously, he served as a senior advisor for sales operations and analytics at Dell and a senior data analyst at comScore, Inc. Upside recently spoke with Sana about his work in analyzing sales data and what it takes to be successful.

UPSIDE: If you could go back in time, what's the one thing you would tell yourself as a new analyst/data scientist?

Sana Narani: I think I would tell myself to embrace the "Wild West" of data. Data is everywhere. The number of sources and amount of data that are being collected is growing exponentially, and it can certainly be overwhelming at first. However, today I honestly think that more data is better -- as long as you know what to do with it, of course. You have to be able to effectively communicate your findings to nontechnical stakeholders.

What's a typical day like for you? Do you work mostly with a team or mostly alone? Which do you prefer?

I work very closely with our sales team, so most of my day is spent analyzing our company's sales data. I'm checking information from various operational databases and our CRM platform and looking for any issues that may be arising -- drops in lead-to-opportunity conversion, sales reps underperforming, etc. From there, I advise the management team on courses of action and their impacts.

Often the management team wants to get their hands into the data as well, so although I largely work on my own, I do work with team members to identify the root cause of a particular issue or to find new opportunities.

What's your favorite part about being an analyst? Your least favorite part?

I love spending time understanding my stakeholders' needs, focusing in on a particular business problem, solving an issue or removing a roadblock, and watching them succeed.

What's a personality trait you think people need to succeed at your job?

First, you have to be passionate about data. That may seem like an obvious personality trait, but when you spend the majority of your day digging into numbers and looking at charts, you have to love it. You have to love exploring and looking for that needle in a haystack -- being detail oriented definitely helps.

You also have to be a great storyteller. It's not enough to just put data in front of someone. You have to be able to string various findings together and put it in context so it gives people insight.

Where are data analytics and data science headed in the next few years?

As more companies generate and analyze big data, the need for data scientists is going to expand beyond traditional industries, such as healthcare, and move into new industries and cloud-based services. Harvard Business Review actually said that data scientists would have the "sexiest job of the 21st Century."

I also think as organizations become more data driven, it's going to be important to empower users of all roles and skills with access to analytics in the context of the applications they use every day. People have said the best BI is invisible, and I think we'll start to see more application owners embedding analytics so everyone has access to the information they need in the moment they need it to make decisions.

About the Author

James E. Powell is the editorial director of TDWI, including research reports, the Business Intelligence Journal, and Upside newsletter. You can contact him via email here.

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