Leadership roles and skills in the field of data analytics

Every business profession has a demand for senior staff who can demonstrate advanced experience and strong leadership abilities. The vital field of business analytics is certainly no exception. Though the post of ‘data analyst’ is relatively new, it is a career option that has quickly risen to prominence, and vacancies within this category of data science are diverse and widespread.

As even more organizations of all types and sizes realize the importance of effective data gathering and utilization, data analysts will only become more in demand. The techniques and tools for data analysis are improving rapidly, too, further driving the need for skilled professionals in this sector.

Data is increasingly vital to decision-making in business, commerce, healthcare, government departments, and education, which is another reason why jobs for data analysts are consistently appearing.

Naturally, that also means that larger employers are regularly advertising for more senior leadership roles, such as chief data officer.

The tasks of a chief data officer

In some organizations, the career ladder takes employees from being one of a team of data analysts to being the manager of that team. However, in other companies, the task of leading all aspects of data management is assigned to the Chief Data Officer (CDO). This responsibility is often integrated into similar leadership titles, such as chief information officer, chief operations officer, and chief technology officer.

It involves taking responsibility for managing data systems within that organization and ensuring that the employer is reaping the maximum benefit from this invaluable asset. This can also entail ensuring end-to-end business data is gathered, stored and used efficiently, without error, overlap or the potential for data loss or cyberattack.

To be a CDO, analysts need a strong grasp of the organization’s business plans and goals, as well as any operational issues and obstacles that must be overcome to control data in an assured, compliant, and business-focused manner.

It is a strategic position that includes constantly ensuring that the organization’s investment in technology and IT training and coaching keeps pace with the demands on its data control and use. The CDO also heads up data governance issues to ensure that digital information is being cleansed and disposed of in an appropriate way.

Furthermore, the role of a CDO (or similar) could also involve recruiting, managing, and training more junior analysts for the organization. Attracting and retaining the right caliber data analyst can be essential for business success in the digital age.

In some business categories, specialists in analyzing data are especially scarce, and offering attractive salaries and a strong organizational culture can be the only way to acquire (and retain) skilled personnel.

The CDO will play a big role in this drive to attract the right staff and keep them loyal. This includes creating a data-driven business with a culture that is nurturing and inclusive and a work environment that provides a high level of engagement and job satisfaction.

This all involves having strong leadership skills as well as exceptional technical prowess in the field of data science. CDOs are involved with managing and developing their own team of data experts and interacting with other departments.

The core function of data analytics is to gather, organize and interrogate digital information so the CDO can extract crucial business intelligence. These reports need to be shared with various departments and non-technical audiences. This means that one of the most important skills CDOs and other data officers require is the ability to present information in an understandable and easily applicable way.

Also Read: Typical Data Engineer Job Description

High-level management and executive roles

Not all senior business analysts are CDOs and could be assigned a wide range of alternative titles, depending on the organization they work for and their remit. For example, a business data architect would be responsible primarily for building, maintaining, and using fully integrated and end-to-end data systems.

Almost 80% of employees surveyed by Forrester Consulting reported that they are more likely to stay with employers who deliver effective training in data skills, so supporting widespread data literacy is also key. So, job roles that may become more common include business data manager, business data officer, or even business intelligence manager.

Whatever the title, the role will involve strategic leadership and data-driven decision-making to optimize data on behalf of the employer. This is because business analysis techniques and reports are now crucial to business growth and development. It leads to various opportunities for experienced and well-qualified professionals to move from IT departments to boardrooms and management teams.

Furthermore, this also means that data analysts could soon be working right across the organization as senior business analysts or data managers, helping with a diverse range of business decisions. These decisions may range from improvements in productivity and profit to marketing success and the development of major new products and initiatives.

Of course, these senior analysts would be working with other senior staff to create robust strategies for data management within the organization. For example, they may be involved in extracting data and analyzing it to support colleagues in procurement and production. Analysts help them know what visible data they need so they can make intuitive business improvements and plan decisions.

Another example would be a troubleshooting or developmental project to collaborate and communicate with the sales and marketing team. This could help them to formulate their detailed data requirements, such as the buying behaviors and preferences of existing customers.

As an article in Forbes explains, “If you can look around your organization and see teams making decisions effortlessly because they are using data, you’ve realized your data’s full value.”

More on building agile business environments

When leading a team of data analysts who have responsibilities and tasks across a range of different departments and functions, the onus would be on the CDO to create agile analytic environments within the organization. This demands well-established leadership skills, including knowing how to assign tasks to the team of data analysts to optimize their skills and experiences, as well as knowing when to commission outside expertise for additional support.

Some of the projects that senior managers in business analytics deliver may require formulating project management teams that cut across multiple other departments, roles, and responsibilities. As an illustration, a team may need to be created to consider a potential new product that involves finance, R&D, production, sales, marketing, and business intelligence gathering personnel.

Leading the team would involve creating especially transparent and realistic goals, including an outline of the data needed to predict the likely response from the marketplace. Business intelligence would also be gathered and analyzed to map competitors in the niche.

The early performance of that new product and any changes needed could then be considered by the project team using data analysis. The team leader may be tasked with using data analytics to monitor potential production issues, the validity of the initial branding, and whether the sales and marketing team are achieving the desired income-to-profit levels.

Specialist senior data analysts

For bigger companies and major projects, there may be a need for several advanced data analysts rather than one overarching executive who manages all aspects. This could involve a range of specialists in this field who have leadership roles over small teams and tasks.

For example, vast organizations may employ individual senior analysts who focus on marketing, finance, and cyber security, who then work together to support new product development and general business growth. Even in this case, heading up all this activity would be a senior executive. This executive would be tasked with keeping close control over factors such as the overarching outcomes, costs and deadlines, as well as the talent pool within the data analysis team. This means that leading a team of specialized business analysts would especially require strong skills in communication, planning and critical thinking.

An astute data science manager would also have to be constantly alert to anomalies and gaps that can occur when data is broken into different business fields and purposes. In other words, the overall project manager and business intelligence executive would need to find problems that colleagues are unaware of and provide evidence to support creative solutions and developments.

Additional key skills that senior data analysts need

Alongside being adept at creating cohesive and focused teams and projects, another skill that leaders need for senior business analysis roles is constructive listening.

The arena of data science is a mystery to many people, and there could be colleagues that leaders need to partner with who are somewhat baffled by the analysts’ roles and responsibilities. Some may not even have a clear brief or real idea of what it is they want to achieve. A senior business analyst will then find the right questions and discussion points to create project specifications of genuine value. This includes creating a methodology to gather and sort data that is ideal for producing unequivocal outcomes.

There may be some pushback when senior analysts try to work with other managers to gather important business intelligence. This means that additional leadership skills senior business analysts require include negotiation, influencing, and conflict resolution to ensure a project delivers its goals in a successful and timely manner.

How do senior business analysts acquire leadership skills?

Advanced technical skills are required to rise through the ranks within the field of data science. These include demonstrable knowledge of programming languages for data manipulation and visualization and acumen in the latest software for the particular data specialism. Robust personal – as well as professional – skills, including leadership skills, are also essential.

The opportunity to work on leadership skills is just one of the benefits of online MBA. Building on existing technical qualifications and experience, analysts could use the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program at St. Bonaventure University to focus on concentrations such as business analytics. This program also expands their advanced business skills, interdisciplinary knowledge, and ethical decision-making abilities.

Thought leaders

Whatever senior role an analyst acquires in the field of business analytics, there will be numerous tests of their ability. This includes the ability to make decisions based on the best interests of the employer, as well as legislative and moral boundaries all businesses must observe.

A firm grasp of data and the decision-making confidence it brings can potentially fuel curiosity and creativity across the whole management team. Those in a senior role in this field and tasked with maintaining, improving, and cleansing information databases need a strong grasp of critical thinking, innovation, governance, and control.

One of the most vital aspects of a leadership role is the ability to monitor and assess performance, constantly finding ways to enhance and improve the contribution made to the organization. It could be argued that by being a thought leader as a senior data analyst, they are also pushing the boundaries of this whole branch of data science.


There is such a demand for experienced data analysts – especially those with advanced leadership skills – that graduates also have the option of starting up an agency in this field to help smaller businesses succeed.

There is a lot to consider when purchasing a business, so some analysts may prefer to build their own venture from the ground up. One of the advantages of taking this route to become a senior decision-maker in business analysis is the ability to choose to specialize in one particular area. For example, this could be a financial, marketing, or cyber security data area.


Finally, there are many good reasons for a wider range of ambitious managers to specialize in data analytics when taking an MBA.

Interpreting data – and knowing which digital information the organization needs – is no longer a task only assigned to senior data analyst roles. Financial directors, chief executive officers, and other decision-makers need to master the art of fully utilizing numerical and statistical data.

All senior management roles also now require a strong awareness of data management obligations and compliance and the measures needed to prevent cybercrime and accidental data loss.

An example of this is a financial director with strong data analytic skills. This provides them with incredible power in their role. This includes high visibility over the financial health of their organization, detailed control over transactions and output, and utilization of predictive analytics to find profitable methods of business. This proves yet again that data-driven decision-making is now at the core of all growing, accountable, and secure businesses.

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