The Primary Analytics Practitioner

The field of Business Analytics can be very complex. Top level analysts are experts; just like medical specialists, they have undergone years of additional training and know their area of specialty (perhaps price sensitivity, multivariate statistical modeling, survey analysis or mathematical optimization) backwards. Keeping with this analogy, most business managers are as well informed as to what business analytics can do for them as a patient heading in to see their primary physician; perhaps less so.

In the medical world there is a wealth of information specifically written for non-experts available on the web. We see legions of ads for pharmaceuticals that inform us about new conditions and their chemical solution. Many of us will routinely see a primary care physician (that’s ‘General Practitioner’ for those of you in the U.K.) and at least be familiar with our own complaints. When we have an issue with our body, we head to the doctor and let him direct us.

In the business analytic world we have done less well at making it accessible to managers. Most of the published material, easily accessible via the web, is not intended for general consumption. It’s very useful to those already initiated into the craft, but if you do not have a very strong mathematical/statistical background, good experience applying these skills in a business environment and some idea what to search for it may as well not exist at all. An excellent example, there is no equivalent of WebMD’s SymptomChecker. Perhaps also why I have seen no analytical version of a hypochondriac :-).

As a business manager when you encounter a tough problem you often just try and ‘work it out’. After all that’s what managers are paid for, right, to "manage" ? You self–medicate, potentially causing harm or, at least, not addressing the real issue.

Well, the web is a relatively new phenomenon, whereas people going to see a Primary Care Physician is certainly not. What we are missing most, I think, is the role of Primary Analytics Practitioner. Someone a manager turns to who can:

  • Help you identify the real issues/issues and frame potential solutions         
  • Personally handle 90% of the issues that arise       
  • Source technically adept specialists when the need arises

The business analytics world is new – it has no certification process, no minimum educational requirements and no clear terminology to identify practitioners by what they do best. By my experience there are many good analytical providers out there, most of whom have expertise in specific areas. Sadly, you cannot open the Yellow Pages or search online and find a  Primary Analytics Practitioner. (I just Googled the term and found nothing useful to me).  In finding one, you're on your own for now but take heart, these people are out there, it's not just me.

When you do stumble across someone with a breadth of analytical capability, an understanding of your business problem, the ability to directly handle many of your analytical needs and the willingness to say “I don’t know this well enough, but I can find someone who does” use them wisely and stop self-medicating.