What does a Data Analyst do?

A Data Analyst looks at the organisation’s raw data and finds ways to make it easier for others to understand, see trends or predict what might happen in the future. Data Analysts help businesses turn extensive, unorganised collections of information into something useful.

Data Analyst job responsibilities include: 

  • Creating an information architecture for a data set and ensuring it is easily accessible and understandable to everyone 
  • Making recommendations on how the organisation can best use the data they have collected to their advantage or making suggestions as to what new data they should collect 
  • Looking at how businesses in similar industries are using their data analysis tools 
  • Tying together previously unrelated sets of information so that they are easier to analyse 
Data Analysts usually do some form of statistical analysis on the data they have collected. This is because raw numbers need to be turned into information that will be easily understood by decision-makers. They’ll need an excellent understanding of algorithms, statistics, and mathematics to perform this type of work effectively. Since much of the work involves collecting, processing and analysing large amounts of information, software is widely used throughout their daily tasks. 

What does it take? The ideal candidate for this job needs strong analytical skills. Data Analysts need an excellent understanding of statistical analysis software tools, including SQL, R or Python programming languages. They also need to be able to communicate well in written reports and have strong presentation skills. Good math skills are fundamental, but so is being able to ask the right questions.  

The ability to think outside the box is also vital since companies need people who can find new ways to use their data or develop novel solutions that haven’t been attempted before. 

What technology does a Data Analyst use?

A Data Analyst will use tools that allow them to collect, store and access information easily. Some of the most common tools in this field are: 

  • Microsoft suite 
  • SAS 
  • R programming language 
  • SQL databases 
  • Google Analytics 
  • Proprietary software from business intelligence departments within organisations 
  • Data Analysts will also commonly use text mining tools like Apache OpenNLP or IBM Alchemy Language to automate turning unstructured text into structured data 
These professionals need to understand as much as possible about how technology works and what it is capable of. They also need to make decisions about which software will work best for a particular task. 

They may also use machine learning techniques and tools to discover patterns within the data set that could not be seen by humans. 

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What's in a Data Analyst's job description?

Most examples of a Data Analyst job description will overlap in some areas, but the specifics will be unique to each organisation. In the broadest sense, a Data Analyst is responsible for understanding the data their company has collected to spot patterns, trends, and issues that might not be obvious to others. They are also responsible for determining how best to use this data - whether reporting it to other employees, sharing it with partners or using it to make business decisions. 

The duties and responsibilities outlined in a typical Data Analyst job description include: 

  • Using a variety of data analysis tools to interpret and report on data 
  • Proactively suggesting improvement in the company’s processes or approaches based on their findings 
  • Reporting on past events, issues and trends so that other employees can learn from them. For example, an analyst might provide a case study of how a competitor dealt with a similar issue, which could help another part of the company prepare for dealing with a future problem 
  • Acting as a liaison between different departments within the organisation - e.g. liaising with marketing if they need to run an advertising campaign based on their findings 
  • Testing out new BI tools or analytics techniques to find better ways of analysing data 

The hard and soft skills required in a typical Data Analyst job description include: 

  • Strong understanding of statistical analysis techniques 
  • Math skills - including strong algebra and calculus comprehension, as well as readiness to learn new mathematical concepts whenever necessary 
  • The ability to communicate complex information effectively in report form 
  • Familiarity with common software tools used for big data analysis. These include SQL databases, R programming language, Python and others 
  • Strong computer literacy, including proficiency in using spreadsheets and dashboards 
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team 

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