Struggling with Your Analytics Reputation?

As someone who helps clients with analytical subjects, I see the full spectrum of people’s successes and frustrations. Often, people will confidentially share their struggles with their external consultant when they wish to have a sounding board but they don’t feel comfortable having the discussion with their colleagues or leadership.

It is also not unusual after I give a speech at a conference, to have analytical professionals walk up to me and say, “Thank you, you’ve helped validate what I’ve been trying to accomplish at my own company.” It is comforting to these people to know that they are on the right track, even if they haven’t reached the point where their own colleagues understand the bigger picture and see the value of analytics. At this point, they are feeling alone on an island with no supporters, especially if they are the only analyst within their functional area.

Some people translate their frustrations into a need to organize and define. Over the years, I’ve seen many articles of people attempting to define analytical terms and / or analytical job titles. One author suggested that you can’t be a Data Scientist unless you are versed in applying scientific techniques like hypothesis testing. I guarantee you that the people in HR writing job descriptions and using the title of Data Scientist will never worry about the suggested definitions on the internet. In the real world, HR will do the best it can when writing technical job descriptions and we will always see a variety of titles in analytical roles. It’s far more important for them to capture the needs of the role than to worry about the specific title. But, I digress…

For those who are frustrated, I would like to provide some assistance. I have seen approaches to analytics which begin with floating a business case to the executives in order to get “buy in.” To be honest, anyone can make almost anything look good in a PowerPoint presentation. And if you’re in a large company like I was a few years ago, it would have taken me a full year to cycle through all of those executives. It’s just not a practical approach and those who know me, know that I’m all about aiming for practical and realistic when it comes to analytics.

I’m more of a “prove it” kind of person, so business cases based on general information you obtained from the internet hold no value. Instead, I prefer the bottom-up approach of proving what can be done with analytics to show value. I would always seek out someone who was “feeling major pain” and would be open to accepting my offer of, “Do you mind if we give analytics a try in this application?” Those “feeling major pain” are more apt to try new approaches.

As a second piece of advice, allow me to use HR for this example. You may have noticed that most large companies are structured such that HR Business Partners are aligned to business areas. They represent their business area to the HR team. As such, these are the people that need to be advocates of analytics in HR. However, until you educate them in the capabilities of analytics, they won’t be able to understand the value they can bring by suggesting HR analytics to their business area. By educated HRBPs, I’m not suggesting a mathematical education on analytics, but more of a non-mathematical introduction to show them what is possible. For anyone out there who has heard my talks at HR conferences, it is always non-mathematical. HRBPs don’t need to DO the mathematics. They just need to know WHAT you can DO with analytics. With this approach, HRBPs can become your advocates and you will struggle far less with your analytical reputation.

If you are not in HR, you can still think of your struggle within the same context. Who are the people feeling pain where you think analytics can help provide insight into one of their issues?

I’ll leave it to the reader to contemplate their own situation and approach.

Until next time,


Tracey Smith is an internationally recognized business author, speaker and analytics consultant. She is one of the most highly respected voices when it comes to business analytics and HR analytics. She is the author of multiple business books and hundreds of articles in a variety of publications. Tracey has worked with and advised organizations, both well-known and little-known, on how to use data analytics to impact the bottom line. If you would like to talk to Tracey about consulting work or speaking engagements, please visit  or contact Tracey Smith through LinkedIn.

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