The Value of a Data Analyst


My role as a data analyst is fairly flexible and versatile. One day I’ll be digging through thousands of rows of data looking for answers, the next I’m asking leaders of departments and organizations the tough questions, and some days I’m the one being grilled by these leaders. Some of my biggest tasks as an analyst are that of an educator and researcher. To work with the data, I must get to know it from almost every angle. This also means I’m more capable of backing up my findings with the research I’ve done, using different angles of the data to explain and expand on my points.

Those hours of research are then expected to be shared so others can emulate the process, understand how they can use the data in other ways, and harness this data for necessary action. This means spending an hour (or sometimes days or weeks) training my fellow CUSO colleagues and credit union employees. When I share the knowledge of the things I’ve learned or found, I’m adding value to the organization that largely and easily goes unnoticed at first. Not only that, but the studies I provide that prompted these questions are what directed the employee or organization to a strength, opportunity, or weakness they had not before realized was present.

Data analytics is not a side task, it’s a full-time job

The top four complaints I hear when offering training or a walkthrough to a credit union are:

  1. “I wish I had someone here that could just do this for me all the time so that I didn’t have to worry about finding the time for it.”
  2. “Can’t I just hire you to do this for me?”
  3. “I wish I had all day to sit here and play with the data at my fingertips.”
  4. “I may be the (insert job title here), but I’m also expected to be our data expert.”

Not enough credit unions are making the most of their resources and having a person dedicated to the role of data analyst. When we rob one department and person of their primary role, we’re not allowing them to be at their full potential and capability in that role, stifling growth at the individual and organizational level. This is not to say that a data analyst is the only role at a credit union that can and should possess a certain level of knowledge of the data they work with. Instead, a person dedicated to spending all day in the data and exploring the hidden weaknesses, strengths, and opportunities there can enhance your organization in such a way that you haven’t had time to imagine yet.

On the topic of having a designated data analyst or team, Liz Winninger, CEO of Xtend noted, “A data analytics department is like having a kid. At first you think you know everything about what you will experience and how you will change, and then reality hits and you have questions you didn’t even know to ask before. Having a designated data analytics team has created a conduit that fine tunes our initiatives. It has created little lighthouses for us. Data insight does that for an organization. It gives you indications of rocks ahead, or routes to travel, and it makes you a stronger, more strategic organization.”

Stop thinking of data as optional

I’ve also experienced first-hand that if there is someone behind the scenes devoted to pulling the numbers and making suggestions, there are likely to be more people available elsewhere to act on these findings, which is the most important part of having and analyzing data in the first place. Credit unions need to stop seeing data analysts as luxuries or side operations, and start seeing them as a necessity for conducting business and improving operations. While yes, you can outsource and hire a CUSO to educate, analyze, and act for you, data analysts pride themselves on sharing the knowledge of enabling credit unions to find and use this information on their own whenever they can.

Regarding data analytics, Jason Conrad, VP of Business Development with Xtend commented, “Data analytics provides insight into member consumerism in a manner and depth unobtainable through nearly any other method. Evaluating the information provided allows credit unions an understanding of members preferences, trends, and demographics that are invaluable in planning for future growth and success.”

If you don’t already have a designated data analyst on your team, one whose full-time job is to study, learn, and understand your data, you’re limiting your credit union’s potential. Consider what steps you would need to take in order to find someone to fill that role and help your credit union succeed.


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