I’ve always thought the title ‘data analyst’ is a bit misleading. You read the name once and you just assume that’s exactly what a data analyst does. Analyse data. You give them some data, and ask for very specific parts of it back, neatly bundled up using logic that’s predefined by the client.
Well, you wouldn’t be wrong, but you’re not completely right either. As with any occupation that we don’t know much about, we make assumptions and draw conclusions on what we have to work with - in some cases just a name. So I thought it might be interesting to look at what exactly it is that your basic data analyst does.
Meet Tess. She’s a real person, but that’s not her real name because data analysts value privacy like that. Anyway, she looks after one of our clients here at Open Box, pretty much single-handedly. And she’s rather good at it too. I recently sat down with her to have a chat about her day-to-day activities. She had quite a bit to say, so let’s dive in.
Hi Tess! Tell us about what you do on a typical day.
First up, I check my mail. Since my client is in the U.S., we typically receive most of our support requests this way. A lot of the work that comes through in the form of emails happens overnight, so I have work waiting for me first thing.
Do you find this efficient, not being able to immediately talk to the client first thing if, for example, you have a query regarding a mail you were sent?
Actually, it’s great being able to get through all the mail and complete quite a bit of work without being interrupted. It also means that, in most cases, requests can be completed and in the client’s inbox by the time they get into office. It also gives me time to think about any mail I have a query with for a while before responding to it.
What kind of requests do you deal with?
Support emails include things like data uploads, monthly reports, investigations into issues with normal business process (for example, someone cannot vacate a tenant - they need to know why and have it fixed), web pages not loading correctly, incorrect data being displayed, etc. Oh, and this can also include support for custom applications we have developed for the client, right here at Open Box. I also advise the client’s own business analysts on business process in the application or even the best course of action to take for a particular issue while keeping data integrity in mind. The data is EVERYTHING.
Do you cover any non-support/investigation issues?
Yes. Generally, these are in the form of enhancements. The client works in MRI Software, a product we support extensively at Open Box. We have years of experience with MRI development and enhancements, I think you would be quite amazed at what we can do.
Want to list a few examples for our readers?
I do report design, where I design new reports showing the client a very specific set of data, exactly as they want it. I also modify existing reports to the client’s specifications. I do web design for the web-based version of MRI, which includes modifying web pages to either display data differently or even allow data input where it wasn’t possible before. I also help some of them to set up and schedule the automated running of reports.
I also do database modifications, such as creating new stored procedures to aid with reports or database processes. Modifying table triggers and managing database jobs are frequent tasks too.
Then I do custom application management. This includes making changes to custom application reports, modifying backend code or logic to change the way custom applications interact with MRI, and eventually deploying these changes to the custom applications. The list goes on…
That’s a lot of changes. How do you keep track of all of them?
Change controls. Its documentation that we use to outline the work required to complete the support request/change. It includes an estimate of the effort required and a time frame to work in. We have one such document for each change we do. On a somewhat related note, I also occasionally have to provide documentation detailing a particular business process. These documents assist the client in getting a better understanding of the backend process and can assist the client with training.
That’s a lot of documentation and emailing. Do you ever get to speak to the client at all?
Oh yes. I have a call with them every day to discuss major support items and to ensure that the priority of these items is correct. Weekly status calls are also conducted with client management to discuss major issues that were focused on in the past week.
Would you describe this process, all of it, from emails to documentation, as standard?
Definitely not. Every aspect of this process is completely custom-made to the client’s needs. It’s evolved quite a bit over time, but that’s how we keep the support efficient and relevant. We accommodate them, not the other way around, and we will move mountains to do it.
And that’s it! The only question I have left is for you, the one reading this:
Now that you know what we can do for one client with one data analyst, what do you think we can do for your business with an army of them?