A data analytics consultant organizes and analyzes a business’s data to turn the data into an asset useful for making decisions, creating operational visibility, and answering questions.
Data is one of the most valuable assets for any business. Understanding the role of a data analytics consultant is crucial for any organization looking to leverage data effectively. These professionals are central to transforming complex data into actionable insights, combining data engineering skills with analytical expertise.
Before going too much further, get the companion checklist to help apply what we cover in this article.
Armed with the knowledge of what exactly a data and analytics consultant does and the skills they provide, we will then discuss how to find and hire the right analytics consultant.
What Does a Data Analytics Consultant Do?
A data analytics consultant serves as both a constructor of data frameworks and an interpreter of data insights. They possess a unique blend of technical skills in data engineering – such as building and maintaining data systems – and analytical prowess in extracting meaningful insights from complex datasets.
Their role involves creating and managing the infrastructure required for data collection, processing, and storage. This includes designing data models, developing algorithms for data analysis, and creating visualizations to communicate findings clearly.
Data analytics consultants play a vital role in enabling businesses to make informed decisions. They provide the expertise needed to navigate data, ensuring an organization's data strategy aligns with its business objectives.
A data analytics consultant is not just an analyst but a comprehensive data expert. They are instrumental in building a data-driven culture within an organization, ensuring that data is not just available but also accessible and actionable for decision-making. Although some consultants specialize in specific skills, others strive to provide a blend of all necessary skills.
The Diverse Specialties and Skills in Data Analytics Consulting
Data analytics consulting isn't a one-size-fits-all profession. It spans a wide range of specializations, each tailored to different aspects of business and data needs. Understanding these specializations is key when looking for the right consultant for your business.
Consider these four dimensions to understand how an analytics consultant might specialize and be a good fit for your needs.
Business Function or Industry
Analytics consultants that specialize in your specific need bring more than technical expertise to an engagement. Some even focus exclusively on specific industries or business functions. Some examples include:
- Web and Digital Analytics Consultants: In the digital realm, these consultants analyze web traffic and user engagement to improve online presence and digital marketing strategies. They're crucial for businesses looking to optimize their online platforms.
- Financial Analytics Consultant: These make sense of accounting and financial data, and tie that data to operational data to help form a complete financial picture.
- Product Analytics Consultant: Product leaders make use of data to inform product strategic decisions as well as optimize customer experience and improve key usage metrics.
- Marketing Analytics Consultant: They specialize in analyzing marketing data to measure campaign effectiveness, understand consumer behavior, and optimize marketing strategies for better ROI.
- People Analytics Consultant (HR Analytics): These consultants apply data analysis to human resources, helping businesses optimize recruitment, track employee performance, and improve organizational culture.
- E-commerce Analytics Consultant: For businesses in the e-commerce space, these consultants analyze customer behavior, market trends, and sales data to enhance the online shopping experience and boost sales.
Client Size and Geography
Many analytics consultants focus on serving customers in their home city or state, or focus on clients of a certain size. Although they obviously lack the depth of expertise of consultants focused on an industry, this is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, they may be used to serving organizations that aren’t yet mature around data analytics–which is most organizations. These types of specialists often bring best practices that work for companies of a certain size or in a specific geographic area.
Many data analytics consultants specialize in a certain practice within the broader data analytics umbrella. This can be useful for unusual situations like large or complex data, when an organization grows in their needs to justify a team of data analytics experts.
- Data Engineering: These individuals focus on getting data out of the source systems, organizing it, automating processes, and creating data models that are easy to use and perform well.
- Data Analysis: Analyst consultants use data to fulfill business requirements–or even shaping requirements from ambiguous or general needs. They analyze data to understand it and make sense of it for reporting or answering questions.
- Predictive Analytics: Sometimes labeled “machine learning,” these analytics consultants use statistical programming libraries to extrapolate forward projections and predictions based on available data.
- Artificial Intelligence: Human nature predicts that many people will begin labeling themselves as AI analytics consultants. And many businesses will get caught up in the hype–be sure AI is the specialty you need before pursuing a data analytics consultant specializing in this. An AI consultant will be able to apply AI tools and products but may be lacking in more foundational capabilities.
H3 Product Focus
Another typical way to specialize is by product. This can be useful if your company already has invested in specific technology products. Data and analytics consultants that specialize in a product, tool, or framework will bring best practices built up from previous engagements.
These products fall into three basic categories:
- Data Warehouse: This is a database designed for data analytics and the types of queries and operations needed. Examples include Snowflake, BigQuery, and Redshift. See our Data Warehouse Services.
- Reporting or Exploration: These tools are the “last mile” and typically are the only thing that end users see. These products visualize data, provide reports and dashboards, and provide various levels of exploration capabilities. Some examples include Sigma Computing, Tableau, Astrato, and Luzmo. There are dozens of these products on the market.
- Data Ingestion: Data ingestion is extracting data from operational systems, APIs, databases, and other sources into a single location (the data warehouse) for analysis. Specialty tools and frameworks include Fivetran, Rivery, Portable, Meltano, and Integrate. See our Data Integration & Extraction (ETL, ELT) Platform feature.
How to Evaluate and Hire a Data Analytics Consultant
Now that you have an understanding of the landscape of analytics consultants, let’s look at how you can evaluate them to select the right one. Then we’ll describe the typical process of an engagement.
H3 Evaluating a Data Analytics Consultant
Here is a checklist you can use to ensure you thoroughly evaluate any data analytics consultant to ensure a good fit.
- Define Your Business Needs: Before you start looking for a consultant, have a clear understanding of what you need. Don’t overcomplicate this, but do write it down so you consistently communicate it. Are you looking for insights into customer behavior, improving operational efficiency, or predictive analytics for future planning? Knowing your objectives will guide you in finding a consultant with the right expertise.
- Look for Relevant Experience and Specialization: Use the framework from the section above to decide whether any specializations are important to you. Check their past projects and client testimonials to gauge their expertise and success in their professed specialties.
- Assess Technical and Analytical Skills: Ensure the consultant has a strong foundation in data engineering and analytical skills. This can be very difficult because you are hiring expertise you do not have. Some consultants can provide examples of prior work or portfolios. Sometimes a third-party consultant will be willing to perform a technical assessment on your behalf. And often product vendors know who is who in their network of consulting partners.
- Consider Communication and Problem-Solving Abilities: A good consultant should not only be technically proficient but also able to communicate complex data insights in a clear and understandable manner. Look for someone who is a good listener, can ask insightful questions, and is adept at solving complex problems.
- Discuss and Understand Their Methodology: Each consultant may have a different approach to data analytics. In truth, many do not have one at all–watch out for this. If they assume they will just follow whatever process you typically use, that is a red flag. Discuss their methodology to ensure it aligns with your expectations and business goals. Understanding their process will help you gauge how they will handle your data and the insights they will provide.
- Review Their Portfolio and Case Studies: A consultant's portfolio and case studies can provide valuable insights into their work style and the kind of results they deliver. Look for case studies or examples that are similar to your business situation.
- Set Clear Expectations and Deliverables: Be clear about what you expect in terms of deliverables, timelines, and communication. This will help set a clear path for the consultancy and avoid any misunderstandings later on.
- Discuss Costs and ROI: This is appropriate and expected to be a part of the first conversation. They should be willing to give you a “ballpark” idea of what drives cost and how you should start to plan. Understand their fee structure and discuss the expected return on investment.
- Plan for Long-term Engagement: Consider how the consultant can be a part of your long-term data strategy. Data analytics is not a one-time activity but an ongoing process, and having a reliable consultant can be a valuable asset for your business’s growth.
Hiring a Data Analytics Consultant the Right Way
Once you’ve identified the right consultant, engaging with them is typically straightforward but has a few things not to overlook.
Understand exactly what drives cost and how you will be charged. This is often an hourly rate, but not always. Some are deliverable-based or project-based. With hourly rates, ensure you understand how hours will be reported and tracked against milestones and deliverables.
Datateer offers a Managed Analytics service with pricing that scales up and down by data asset under management.
Understand their information security policy, especially where your data will reside, who will have access to it, and what the data analytics consultant is allowed to do with your data. Don’t assume anything here, and make sure to get it in writing. See Datateer’s Information Security Policy as an example (you are welcome to reference this or use it as a boilerplate)
Understand ownership of deliverables–and data. Understand what happens if the data analytics consultant underperforms or does not deliver. This is often not nefarious but happens more than most in the industry care to admit. Data is complex, and it often happens that the fees start adding up faster than the deliverables arrive. (If you’d like to see Datateer’s Master Services Agreement or Subcontractor Agreement, reach out and we can share).
With a clear master agreement in hand, your analytics consultant can create a 1-page Statement of Work (“SOW”) that defines the deliverables and price. Referencing the master agreement, the SOW can stay short and sweet, but still be legally strong.
Establish communication and reporting processes, and a way to have touchpoint meetings where you adjust the engagement parameters. With these, everyone knows how to communicate about things that aren’t working and need adjustment.
Selecting the right data analytics consultant is a strategic step in leveraging your business data effectively. These experts bring a blend of data engineering and analytical skills, essential for transforming data into actionable insights. The key lies in identifying a consultant whose expertise aligns with your specific business needs and goals.
In your search, focus on their technical proficiency, industry experience, and problem-solving approach. A consultant’s ability to clearly communicate complex data insights is as crucial as their technical skills. Remember, a successful engagement involves not just the right skill set but also a strong alignment with your business's values and objectives.
Ultimately, the right data analytics consultant can be a valuable partner, propelling your business toward data-driven decision-making and growth. Make this choice thoughtfully, and you’ll set your business on a path to harnessing the full power of your data.