What is a data analyst?

31st March 2022

By Tasman

We are hiring for more data analysts at Tasman. But what exactly does a data analyst do? We have seen a very wide variety of different definitions in the last few years, so we thought it worth to add our own to the mix. Tune in for the definitive description of a data analyst!

This blogpost can be read in conjunction with our new job definition which you can read over here.

The Data Analytics team at Tasman works closely with clients to translate business questions into tangible data requirements. Through a deep understanding of the business domain, including marketing and growth, retail sales, app subscriptions, product development, the team really gets to the heart of client needs. Using a blend of personal, team, and client experience, they are able to ensure each business challenge and opportunity is carefully interrogated and from that, the best solution identified. They typically work closely with the Engineering team to architect and then support delivery of the solution.

The output of our Data Analysts can vary enormously. Some days they'll be working on a quick piece of analysis to support a critical business decision, and other days with Analytics Engineers to understand what datasets are needed for the next phase of your analysis. They may be undertaking new exploratory analysis, or running a workshop to investigate a new business problem. In every activity, our analysts are ensuring the business value is front and centre, carefully working to get fast answers in a stable way.

Domain expertise

A crucial but often missed key to successful analysis is domain expertise. To truly deliver business value, the analysis needs to be understood as more than just numerical insight. Each measure and dimension must be understood in the context of the business activity and how it influences business value—whether that’s setting up new marketing campaigns, designing new product features, or supporting retail processes. At Tasman we understand how essential this is, and find it a critical part of this role.

By working with many different clients at Tasman, the shared experience of analysis allows us to rapidly build up this domain expertise. Already we have worked with clients and data covering Retail, Apps, Travel, Food, Publishing, and Healthcare. Additionally, we work with teams across business functions covering sales, operations, marketing, merchandising, engineering, and product. The opportunities for shared learning and experimenting with new ways of realising business value are limitless.

Each client situation is unique, and will bring aspects of a typical challenge while incorporating new parts that might change the solution. Being able to work with clients to identify those unique needs is therefore essential to the work of the Data Analyst. We do this through carefully planned one-to-one interviews and stakeholder workshops. Translating the output of those and combining it with desk research and business analysis to ensure the requirements feeding into the solution design are comprehensive and well understood.

Rapid insight and Deep analysis

Sometimes the best and most valuable answer to a business question is the one that is delivered fastest. Our Data Analysts are adept at quickly navigating the available data to find the best rapid answer to the key parts of the business question. Analytical thinking and an agile approach to problem solving are both key skills to delivering rapid insight.

For bigger or longer-term questions, exploratory data analysis is a key part of how we approach client problems and realise business value. We use a scientific approach to uncover key insights and relationships between key elements of the business. That may be how particular customers react to product features, or where the latest designs have been making waves, or how new audiences are reacting to our marketing messages. Using a combination of simple analytical approaches, sophisticated visualisations, and statistical modelling we unpick the true signals in the data and discard the spurious noise.

Much of the insight work is client-specific and focuses on the unique elements of their business. Working closely together, our Data Analysts and Analytics Engineers combine those unique elements with our standardised approach to data. We use a common approach to data models that we deploy across all clients. That means analysis is built on the same data platform and can be reused and tailored to produce rapid results. The cumulative effect of these standardisation efforts is that we shorten the time-to-value with each new client we work with.

Self-serve Analytics and Dashboards

Scalability is at the heart of everything we do at Tasman—we are constantly looking for ways to amplify the impact of data on our clients. Our Data Analysts work a lot with Metabase, Looker, and other dashboarding tools to ensure that business users can answer their own business questions at the speed of thought. We don’t like bottlenecks or backlogs of jobs; we do like carefully designed reports, insights and dashboards that provide a guided path to answers.

Self-serve analytics can get complicated very quickly, so we have tried-and-tested approaches to developing multi-layered reporting systems that are tailored to each client. Our Data Analysts carefully design the information architecture and data visualisations to create dashboards that are easy to understand and embedded within business processes. Developing simple navigation pathways between visualisation tools and datasets unlocks the full power of self-serve analytics, enabling our clients to make more data-informed decisions.

Business Analysis

At the core of the Tasman approach to delivery is a focus on business value and the description of a solution that targets the specifics of the business. Our Data Analysts are tasked with connecting with clients and really understanding the value-chain and challenges within their business so that we can shape the solution to fit the needs. Communicating those requirements through to both the Tasman team and the client is a critical part of a successful delivery.

The output of the business analysis work can vary depending on the complexity of the solution. Sometimes it will be a simple summary and close collaboration with the data platform team to deliver a quick result. Other times, a full product brief is required to align many stakeholders from the client and the Tasman team on the shape of the solution. A great Data Analyst is able to organically identify the right type of output for the business situation.

For many of our clients, the core needs are similar and so we look to leverage existing work to efficiently speed up delivery. As part of the business analysis process, being able to identify prior art is essential in our ambition to accelerate the time to deliver business value.

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