The Problem With Hands-Off Analytics

mode.com

I love this post. It's by the Chief Analytics Officer @ Mode, Benn Stancil, whom I highly respect and frequently disagree with. I think I disagree with him here, but he's highlighting a super-important topic:

Many analytics teams aspire to enable as much “self-serve” as possible - in other words, to remove themselves from as many decision-making processes as they can.

What's the role of the analytics team: to conduct, or to facilitate, analytics? It is a 100% legitimate question, and it's also one that is not discussed enough within individual companies or industry-wide.

My own personal belief is that 10-20 years ago "business users" were also data analysts. If they needed data to make their decisions, they got their hands on it and crunched it in Excel. This was just a part of the job of being a professional. It's only in the past 5-10 or so years that "business user" has started to mean "someone who can't self-serve", and this change has come about due to the level of technical proficiency required to analyze data in the modern ecosystem. Excel is no longer enough, and so business users are no longer able to accomplish what had been a core part of their jobs.

My belief is that there is a shift underway to give control back to those users. That the analyst's primary job is not to do someone's job for them but rather to enable (via tooling and training) them to do it themselves. There are certain extremely critical questions that it will always make sense to have a data analyst / scientist analyze directly, but most answers to most questions need to be in the hands of the owners of those business functions.

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