Iowa Grows More Than Corn, We Grow Analytics Talent!

Iowa Grows More Than Corn, We Grow Analytics Talent!

This month I had the opportunity to attend the 4th annual Iowa State University Business Analytics Symposium on April 2nd. The conference provides an exciting experience to see the increasing use of analytics in the state of Iowa. I have attended the conference for three years, and each year I observe the significant growth in the number of topics and participants. At this year’s conference, which sold at out 600 attendees, I met many people from throughout the state and from a variety of companies and departments, from accounting to marketing, to IT, and of course, analytics! Here are my top takeaways from the event.

Getting Started in Analytics
I met several people working in accounting or finance who were attending the conference for the first time for an introduction to analytics – what it means, how they could apply it in their organizations and how to get started. This validates for me the incredible growth potential in the area of analytics. I believe we have only scratched the surface of understanding the value analytics can bring to banking, transportation, and government (just to name a few) as those industries, and many others, continue to recognize the impact that data can add to their organization.

For organizations new to analytics, I have found it can be daunting for them to figure out where to start. Do we hire contractors? Do we talk to IT about getting software? It’s so rewarding for me to help clients build their analytics team from the ground up, in part by making decisions on where the new analytics function should report, how it differs from existing analyst teams, and much more.

The Impact of Self-Service Analytics on the Workforce
I continue to be amazed at the endless possibilities for visualizing data and improving the employee experience. I believe the greatest benefits will continue to be realized from self-service analytics, when large groups of employees create their own visualizations. Self-service analytics will continue to grow for years to come as more departments work to control their data and analysis functions rather than report to a centralized team. As I work with clients in this area, I have found this to be the most complicated area to plan and build from a deployment, capability, and sustainability standpoint, as I think about the significant impact on the positions and skills needed for the future.

I envision, in some cases, the work of a Business Intelligence Analyst today will become the work of a wide variety of technical positions within the company (engineers, pricing analysts, financial analysts, or anyone with a desire to learn). This will likely become a reality as technology companies continue to make it easier for everyone of varying skillsets to use their software.

That shift will require Business Intelligence professionals to learn new skills to visualize data in a way that is meaningful, and to continue to learn about the work of data management behind the scenes, which is much more complicated than simply loading software data to create visual tools. The dedicated Business Intelligence team becomes the go-to resource for the entire organization to explain the new features of the Business Intelligence software and when to use it, how to do more technical visualizations, and how to combine even more data sources to make meaningful analysis.

I believe there will continue to be a need for dedicated roles, experts, and communities of practice, but the focus will shift as the role of analytics grows. What is advanced in analytics today could very well become basic tools in the near future.

Des Moines Analytics Community

It was a lot of fun seeing the familiar faces of so many attendees I’ve met over the past 18 months in Des Moines, mostly through the Des Moines Data & Analytics Meetup group. From my personal experience, I believe there is a huge benefit in surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who are investing in themselves, making connections in their community and giving back by sharing ideas and the work they’ve done.

If you live in Iowa, I hope to see you at next year’s ISU Business Analytics event!

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