Making sense of data

Making sense of data

Analytics and Data Science are two major buzzwords in business and media these days. What exactly is analytics about? 

We create one billion gigabytes of data every day. Our transactions, in stores and online, social media posts and phone calls are just some of the many things that are being recorded daily. 

All this information is then analysed using sophisticated statistical models and the insights generated are used across all levels of the organisation to positively impact stakeholders.This approach of analysing large volumes of data to make business decisions is what analytics all about. And when the data bases get so large that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database, management tools or traditional data processing applications, we call it Big Data Analytics and Data Science.

How is analytics different from regular data analysis that most of us are familiar with? While most managers and analysts regularly run trends analysis and use pivot tables to understand business performance, analytics goes many steps beyond simple reporting based on data. One big difference is that analytical models are built on datasets that have many millions of observations,and includes information from a variety of sources.

A second difference is sophistication. Analytical techniques are used to build predictive models of future performance and to do that we need complex statistical algorithms. The output of the models is usually recommendations to business teams on how to improve top-line performance or meet bottom-line goals.

For example, analytical techniques help e-commerce companies like Amazon to provide customers with similar book recommendations, increasing revenues.  Retailers like Tesco and Target use sophisticated models to customize discount coupons for customers, and to increase spend at store.  

How does one build a career in analytics, a good career option today? Most analytics companies hire freshers from premier MBA institutions, as well as students with post graduate degrees in Statistics, Mathematics, and Economics from top-ranked universities and institutions like Delhi School of Economics, Madras School of Economics, JNU, ISI- Kolkata, etc.

There is also an increasing trend of hiring BE graduates from prestigious institutions like IITs and the NITs. Today, there are many institutions offering a variety of online courses, ranging from a foundation course, to more advanced and specialized courses in analytics. Some premier institutions like IIM-Bangalore, Calcutta and Lucknow offer executive programmes in analytics. IIT-Mumbai, IISc-Bangalore and MICA- Ahmedabad also offer advanced certifications and post graduate programmes in Data Analytics.

If you have an aptitude for quantitative analysis, and have some exposure to programming techniques, then analytics is a great career option. The analytics industry worldwide is expected to grow annually at 30%, and in India, the industry is slated to grow 60 times in the next ten years. As such a career in analytics can mean amazing job with premium compensation and benefits.

Even if you do not want to become a hard core data scientist, it would be prudent to build skill sets that enable you to understand, manage, analyze and interpret the increasing volumes of data, from multiple sources. The ability to make sense of large volumes of data and generate insights  are key skills that companies are looking at from their hires today. Investing in learning the basics of analytical models and tools will surely get you a definite edge in the job market.

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