Up-skilling for Strategic Insight Roles
by Alex White
Senior Partner, Talent & Research 7th Jan 2017
Alex White is the founding partner at Avellio. He is an industry experienced former analyst, and has led over 120 retained search assignments for data science leaders, with mandates entrusted by leading global investment banks, major retailers and analytics consultancies.
As an analyst or data scientist, its likely that you're already highly capable of performing functional quantitative analysis, and its no problem at all for you to pull insights from raw data. With those combined skills in mind, what companies are really asking for right now is for someone to blend the technical model building and data wrangling, with real commercial strategy.
What we find employers asking is for analysts and data scientists to prepare a business case presentation which leans heavily on the ability to demonstrate critical thinking during the hiring process. Its becoming increasingly common and this has thrown up a lot of questions from the analytics and data science candidates that we mentor during the job interview process, so I have decided to give you a 'heads-up!'
1. Make sure that your analysis has an 'actionable' and 'problem solving' outcome
You should begin with the end in mind, in terms of asking yourself what the results of your analysis will mean for the business? What will the next steps be for your analytics team? What will the impact on trends be going forward? It is essential to be asking yourself these questions and to attempt to come up with some cogent answers. Take the raw data that you have, converge it and then pull the insights from the data and consider the next steps. Be as Descriptive as you can be on the results (we saw Y number of sales on Saturday), but be mindful to include actionable insights (our website customers spent X on purchases on Saturday owing to campaign Y, so we are predicting Z sales for each Saturday of the month of January) highlight and prove your ability to really think and act strategically. Provide an action plan, calling for either additional analysis or for the company.
2. Anticipate the level of technical ability and understanding of your audience.
Will you be presenting to a technical team leader? Or to a high level operations executive, someone that will require more of a 'macro' view? Consider the timeframe and how much detail you should go in to. Your audience may require you to present the statistical complexities and theories supporting your results, whilst others could only require you present a summary of the insights.
3. What will your audience find of greatest importance and what the take-aways should be.
Determine if the analysis is to be performed for the finance or marketing business unit? Consider what your audience will likely think important or valuable? There may be differing sets of priorities between teams, and presenting strategic insight could entail combining your quantitative expertise with a summary of what the individual teams will each find important or most useful.
4. Get to grips with presentation boundaries, the expectations, and customise your approach
If you have to make a presentation, determine the length, detail, and scope that you’re required to cover. Check the details and fine tune your presentation or report to ensure it meets with the needs and demands of your audience.
5. Present 'relatable examples'
Considering who you’re presenting your analysis to, it could be useful to cite related examples instead of delving into technical methodology.
6. Maintain a top-down macro view
This is akin to keeping analysis actionable, considering the bigger picture is about thinking beyond an analysis confined to a week, month, or even year of data. Determine if there are sector-wide considerations you should be thinking about? Identify contextual knowledge about external factors that might affect your results, or conversely pull your analysis together and in perspective?
7. Be energetic and stay motivated towards improving
Constantly ask for feedback and fine tune your approach, this is a truly beneficial way to learn, as it helps you to improve, whilst determining that you’re on the right road and delivering what everyone demands of you! Seek advice and counsel from your line manager as to how they think you could improve, and always obtain some form of feedback on presentations or your analysis.
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By Alex White