This blog is part of our ongoing "Meet the Analyst of the Future" series, in which we profile analysts who are embracing the future today, transforming their organizations, and supercharging their careers in the process.
The role of an analyst is evolving everywhere and our business is no exception. At 14 West where I’m responsible for the implementation and integration strategy for BI products, I’ve seen change first hand. 14 West provides the services that businesses need to thrive and grow, with services ranging from Personnel & Talent, to Accounting, Legal, Tech & Media, and more. Our client base includes a range of media and publishing companies, many of which rely on digital communications to drive their business. Collectively, with our help, these businesses send over one billion customer communications a month, and because their industry is going through a major transformation of its own, the evolution of the analyst role has noticeably accelerated.
Serving the Modern Marketer
When I first started as an analyst close to a decade ago, the role was heavily focused on retrieving and reporting data. When our clients approached me with a request I would first understand the requirements, go back to my desk to work on a solution, and then return to the requestor once I had an answer. I spent hours building dashboards and reports and very little time with the client’s business itself.
But at some point, this approach...well...stopped working. Our clients began asking for a higher level of access and faster insights. They were tired of waiting for answers and not being able to ask follow-up questions. Around us, marketing was becoming a much more digital field as consumers were expecting faster, more personalized experiences. Ten or fifteen years ago, the best way for 14 West to reach our client’s customers was through blanket direct mailing campaigns. Today, that just doesn’t cut it. We have to take a more individualized approach to marketing - focusing on the holistic customer journey. The marketers that I work with are moving faster and with more precision than ever before. Instead of creating mail pieces, they are crafting multi-channel communications strategies for specific target audiences. They’re working harder to stay competitive, and that requires a modern approach to analytics as well.
With all of this in mind, we made the decision to put our clients, the business users, at the center of the analytics experience simply because it made sense. They know the business better than anyone else and it seemed only natural to break down the barriers between them and the insights that fuel their campaigns. When we brought ThoughtSpot to 14 West, we did just that. Now, instead of having just one or two conversations with the business, analysts are working side by side with them, helping them learn how to uncover insights from their own data. Non-technical users are searching and exploring their data on their own schedules, asking their own questions, and getting the quick answers they need.
ThoughtSpot is an amazing tool. By creating a flexible and collaborative analytics environment, we’ve removed interruptions and streamlined communication between our teams. When my clients ask questions, I’m able to respond right away and I’m no longer bogged down with building dashboards and reports. Together, we can drill deeper into the data than we ever could before and have been able to uncover insights that we would not have found otherwise.
ThoughtSpot has also played an important role in developing effective communication at all levels of our organization. We are not just using it as a tool to explore and share data, but also to make better business decisions. By pairing search and visualization, users can find their own insights and then easily create compelling narratives to share with others. Executives can go into ThoughtSpot and quickly understand what’s happening in their line of business. They’re seeing the trendlines, the peaks and valleys, and can drill down to follow whichever path they want to know more about. When we were only relying on tables of numbers, it was much more difficult to do this.
Scaling for Success
As an analyst, I have evolved from being a task-taker to a teacher. My biggest priorities right now are focused on education and helping people better understand the analytics tools at their disposal. Historically, the analytics industry has low adoption rates but ThoughtSpot’s natural language capabilities provide an enhanced user experience that helps us avoid the pitfalls of traditional analytics. After all, the more users we can get onto ThoughtSpot, the more value we can drive.
Some of our clients pick up the platform immediately. These are usually the people who have some level of technical expertise, like heavy Excel users. I’ve had people tell me that ThoughtSpot is the tool they’ve been waiting for. For others who are less accustomed to diving into their own data, it can be more challenging. They’re not sure where to begin. I’ve found that when this is the case a coaching approach works well. My team hosts ThoughtSpot training sessions during which we don't touch the keyboard at all, we just guide people through the process and let them stay in control. Once the wheels start turning people get excited about what they can do. Often the biggest hurdle is the “imaginative leap.” If you’ve never run your own analytics before, it can be intimidating, but once we help people master the basics and show them how to unlock the value of their own data, it’s a fun and rewarding process.
Looking to the Future
The analyst of the future is someone who has a balanced skillset. Being data-savvy is a great skill to have, but we can no longer rely on just technical skills to be effective in our roles. Great analysts need great communication skills. Our roles are no longer centered around building dashboards. We have to be great storytellers and coaches. We have to bring people on board with our ideas, and more importantly, teach them the skills to build their own interactive visualizations. It’s an exciting time to be in BI.