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Data Analysts As Unknown Heroes - Oz du Soleil

Next week is the PASS Business Analytics Conference and I did a Meet the Experts interview  that really brought me back to what continues to drive me as an analyst and someone committed to Excel and data literacy:

The impact on the people who have to live with the results

It goes beyond being the resident Excel Beast, improving a company’s ROI, and generating vivid dashboards. Being a good analyst “means being the unknown superhero for a whole lot of people who’ll never know that you were key in steering their professional life away from a catastrophe.”

Check out the other
Meet The Experts Interviews

WHEN CANDACE CALLS …

Years ago I had to train someone to cleanse and summarize a massive data dump. She pleaded, “does it have to be this hard?” Well …

The response goes deeper than being stripped of one’s Excel Beast epaulets. Why does it have to be so hard? Because when it’s wrong, Candace is gonna call, and a call from Candace is like Michael Franks’ warning When Sly Calls. (It’s not good)

THE IMPACT ON CANDACE is what we have to understand. Candace’s world is one where she manages the activities of several hundred people. When something goes wrong, and even just 5 people call her with problems, whatever she had planned for her day is suddenly run into a ditch.

But why did those 5 people call Candace? Because there were enormous stakes. They’d been making plans for money they’d been expecting. They’d been celebrating a victory, but verification was somewhere stuck in the throat of the gasping database. Now, ess is effed-up all around.

So, why does it have to be this hard? Because of the unnecessary upheaval in people’s lives … and full frontal exposure to Candace’s wrath! But it’s hard if we just want to calculate the right answers. It’s not hard if we give a damn about people having peace in their life.

HEROES GIVE A DAMN

As analysts, we can have influence in the  chain of events that can engender peace or facilitate mayhem. Once we’ve developed a relationship with the data,The Lone Cowboy we can predict breakdowns and check the known trouble spots, and adjust our analysis to make up for weaknesses in data-capture, inaccurate reports and poor data quality. And it’s all in service of the people whose lives we can make better.

This message may sound obvious. Of course, data on a screen represents real lives.

However, some of our roles are several degrees removed from the people who have to live with the consequences. We only hear about the call from Candace and her people who are embarrassed and pissed-off. So, the PASSBAC interview was a welcome opportunity to remember that outside of my circle of peers, there are regular folks who are just trying to get through their day, and don’t want bad surprises.

On their behalf, we dig into crap data, sharpen our skills, and put our minds together to develop, test and execute clever solutions.

But Is It Really so Hard?

Well … did the Lone Ranger ever drop his head into his hands and whimper to Tonto, “Do those train robbers have to be such mean assholes?” I hope not. Inside of a mission for peace and orderliness, there’s just annoying stuff that gets in the way (temporarily). Be the hero!

frank floyd

Interesting Fact: The voice of Sly on “When Sly Calls” is my late uncle, Frank Floyd (1943-2002)