Data is everywhere these days, and the amount of data that individuals produce is rapidly growing. In fact, Statista projects that by 2025, global data creation will grow to more than 180 zettabytes.
For businesses, this is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the amount of data available at our fingertips gives us better insight than ever before into what customers want, how we can better design experiences to meet those needs, allowing us to increase customer loyalty and ultimately, revenue.
On the other hand, data is only as good as our ability to gather, analyze, and act on it. While this seems simple, in today’s big data environment, where the sheer volume of data is overwhelming, traditional approaches and platforms are often insufficient at harnessing its power.
Businesses who find themselves with a treasure trove of data but no time to analyze it may consider hiring a data team or full-time employee, and for some enterprises, this may be the wisest solution. But another option, especially when you are working with specialized data, are just starting to truly tap into your data’s potential, or have complex systems or data needs, is to hire a data analytics consultant.
These professionals can be an extremely cost-effective solution, providing your business with flexibility, unique skill sets, and the opportunity to determine what your long term approach to data analysis should be.
What Does a Data Analytics Consultant Do?
Data analytics consultants offer expertise, advice, and insight. They may help businesses improve their data analysis processes; select the right data analysis solutions; identify solutions to problems using data; manage recurring reports or other tedious but necessary data tasks that take up your team’s time; provide oversight and guidance on a one-time project or initiative, and more.
Some specific tasks and examples include:
- Assessing data processes and recommending best practices
- Implementing or managing data solutions
- Educating teams on data management and analysis
- Identifying potential problems and opportunities
- Helping businesses to recognize their most valuable data insights
- Providing technical expertise on data cleaning, integration, and storage
- Creating data models
- Generating reports or dashboards
- Developing data security protocols
Data analytics consultants have a wide range of skills as well as unique knowledge, and how they are most useful to your business ultimately boils down to what your business needs.
How to Know if a Data Analytics Consultant is Right for Your Business
Before hiring a consultant, it’s wise to first determine if a consultant is right for your company.
Some enterprises may be at a point where they need an entire data team, or at least a full-time employee focused on data analysis.
But for other businesses, an analyst may be necessary to help get you started, to help your team improve existing processes and systems, or to provide an outside perspective and expertise to help you identify your most valuable data insights.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering if a data analytics consultant is right for your business:
- Is your team overwhelmed by the amount of data available?
- Do you have concerns about the accuracy of your data?
- Do some of your numbers not match up (ex. analysis vs. actual sales numbers)?
- Are your data systems outdated or lack integration?
- Do you pull data from many sources frequently, rather than having a single source of truth?
- Can all of your stakeholders understand your dashboards and reports?
- Do you know what data is most important?
- Does your team spend a lot of time gathering and analyzing information?
- Are you unsure of how to act on the insights your analysis provides?
- Do you wonder if you are truly getting the most out of your data?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s worth having even just an exploratory conversation with a data analytics consultant.
Their entire purpose is to help you extract and prioritize data, solve problems, and to equip your team to eventually manage this process themselves (without it eating up too much time).
To put it succinctly: data analytics consultants make your business more strategic and productive.
What to Expect from a Data Analytics Consultant
Due to the wide range of ways data analysts can support your company, most will want to kick off their relationship with a business by first exploring and understanding the company’s needs.
Identifying Business Needs
Usually this involves an in-depth conversation with the CEO, head of marketing and/or product management, and perhaps your IT leads, depending on what solutions you already have in place. The goal of this conversation is for the consultant to understand your biggest challenges and pain points; your existing processes, solutions, and workflows; and how you hope to use data to better inform your strategy. For example, your Chief Marketing Officer may want to improve channel attribution, so that they know which is their most effective advertising platform.
Reviewing the Data
Next, the consultant will want to get their hands on your data. Most enterprises have data stored in multiple places. Just consider some of the basic types of data most eCommerce companies manage:
- Website traffic data
- Various advertising platform data
- Customer data
- Warehouse data
- Sales data
- Billing data
- Shipping data
And those are just the basics!
Data consultants will want to examine all of this data to understand what your business is already measuring, what it can tell them, what data you may be missing, and how you can improve, integrate, and simplify your data collection and analysis.
For instance, your CEO may want a simple, visual, monthly report that can be sent to shareholders. It needs to be easy to understand and accurate. Unfortunately, due to the myriad of sources in which your business stores data, it takes teams weeks to prepare this information. As soon as they compile one report, they need to start working on the next one, leaving them little to no time to analyze data for new insights, opportunities, or potential problems. A data analytics consultant can streamline this process.
Organizing & Analyzing Data
Indeed, the next step is extracting data and organizing it so that it can be accurately analyzed. The goal in this part of the process is to understand why problems are happening, where there are opportunities for improvement, and to test different hypotheses.
Data consultants will work through your data, summarize their findings, and make recommendations for ways to improve your processes, enhance your customer experience, refine your marketing, or whatever other outcomes you are looking to achieve.
Automating the Process
Finally, your consultant will work to automate your analysis process, so that it is accurate and manageable moving forward. This can help your team to take over once the consultant’s contract concludes, and to own the process.
This phase may involve developing reports and dashboards that automatically populate and send to stakeholders; establishing alerts to notify appropriate teams when there is an anomaly or significant change in data; or improving data integration and solutions and training teams on proper data practices.
Getting the Most Out of Your Consultant
If you truly want to maximize your consultant’s expertise, there are some simple steps you can take to prepare your team and get the best return on your investment:
Any change management expert will tell you that the first step to shifting an enterprise’s processes is by shifting its mindset. Your entire management team will need to be on board with bringing in a consultant, and you will want to get the buy-in of the leads and teams that will be working with the consultant. One easy way to do this is by including key figures in the vetting and selection of a consultant, and by illustrating how a consultant will make their jobs easier.
Set Clear Expectations
Clearly articulate what you expect the consultant to do, what your team will need to do, and what outcomes you hope to achieve from the process.
Your consultants will need to be able to reach out to the appropriate teams and leads to get the information and insights they need. Everyone involved in the project will also need to have clear and consistent communication to help things stack on track.
Identify & Measure Goals
It’s hard to tell if you’re achieving your goals if you never set them. Work with your consultant to identify goals, measure along the way, and regularly review progress in case adjustments need to be made.
Don’t wait until the end to provide feedback. Frequent, ongoing feedback and help a project evolve effectively. You should be sharing feedback with your consultants and they should be sharing feedback with your teams.
Have an Exit Strategy
Unless you plan to have your consultants on retainer, consider who will be taking the lead in managing and analyzing your company’s data once your consultant concludes their work. Factor in the time and training that person or team will need in order to be able to carry on the best practices established by the consultant. Ensure that they have the resources and authority to do so.
The Benefits of Hiring a Data Analytics Consultant
The benefits of hiring a data analytics consultant are myriad, but the big ones can be summarized into a few key categories.
Perhaps most obviously, data analytics consultants bring unique expertise to your organization. Especially when you are dealing with complex data sets or multiple data systems, consultants can provide especially knowledge to help you hone in on your problems, identify solutions, and implement them.
For short term projects or quick turnaround projects in particular, consultants can be an excellent move. They will get the job done more quickly than you could in-house, and you won’t have to pull your team’s focus. They can move fast to implement solutions with minimal disruption to your teams, which is critically important when you don’t have the internal time or resources to spare.
Hiring a consultant is more cost effective than hiring a full-time team member, especially if you need them to set you on the right track, and then your existing team can maintain their best practices. One-time projects are a prime example of when using a consultant may be the better choice.
Consultants allow for flexibility. You can hire them for a short-term basis, on retainer to help with key reports, to investigate and solve a certain problem, to perform an annual analysis of your practices, and more.
For many enterprises, there may be certain times when you need more support. For eCommerce companies, you may wish to work with a consultant in the ramp up to holiday shopping, to ensure you are reaching customers in the most effective way. Or perhaps you have a specific project in mind where outside expertise could move the needle more quickly. Unlike the commitment of a full-time team member, consultants allow you to increase or decrease your data analysis support based on your ever-changing needs.
You know the phrase, “can’t see the forest for the trees.” Sometimes we are too involved in the details of a situation to be able to pull back and look at it holistically. A data analytics consultant brings a fresh perspective (and a slew of experience in solving similar problems for similar organizations) that allows them to hone in on challenges and opportunities your internal team might not be able to spot.
At the end of the day, consultants leave you better than they found you. Depending on your goals, this could mean knowing which channels deliver the most customers; which customers have a higher lifetime value and to whom you should pay more attention; what features customers use the most (or where they get stuck); how to retain customers and reduce churn; or how to extract the best, most usable data from your database.
Hiring a data analytics consultant can benefit your business in a number of ways, all while reducing stress, time-consuming and tedious tasks, and frustration for teams; and improving customer experience, loyalty, and ultimately, revenue.
Consultants are excellent partners in achieving your goals - your success is their success - and by selecting the right one, taking the appropriate steps to get the most out of the relationship, and implementing and maintaining the processes they establish, you can position your business to truly harness the power of data.
Looking to learn more about data analytics assistance? Reach out to the team of experts at Object Edge for a free consultation call.