How Data Analysts Actually Spend Their Time (and Other Findings)

Arm-WrestlingWe’ve all heard the story that data analysts are spending an inordinate amount of time preparing data and not enough time actually doing the value-added analysis. But how much time are they actually spending, and where are they spending it?

At Blue Hill, we’ve heard a lot of rumors that data analysts are spending 60%+ of their time just preparing the data. We weren’t sure if this sounded too extreme to be true – or too glaring to be ignored. So we decided to find out.

Earlier this summer, we launched a survey to ask just these sorts of questions. The survey covered a number of other areas as well, including data source adoption trends and analytics use cases. We received 186 data analyst respondents, and found some interesting results that we will be publishing soon.

First, we asked analysts how much time they spend working with data every day. Then we asked them what percent of this time is spent just preparing it for their eventual analysis.

Here’s what we found:

Data Prep Percent Time

Here’s what it means:

In general, analysts spend between 40%-60% of their time just working to get their data to ‘play nice’. In other words – often, more than half of the time spent working with data is NOT spent aiding business decisions or delivering insights.

Even just improving the process of wrangling and harmonizing data by a marginal amount can yield significant time-savings. For individual analysts, this means that there is an opportunity to look beyond the spreadsheets (we found 78% of people use spreadsheets as a preparation tool) and find more efficient ways to get the same results. For CIO’s and managers, this is an opportunity to strategically invest in tools that will have broad and persistent efficiency gains.

Looking for a place to start? We’ve written about a number of players looking to solve these types of issues, and we’d recommend taking a look at our research report: Five Key Vendors: Self-Service Data Preparation.

How do our survey results compare to your experience? We’ll be discussing all week on Twitter (@James_Haight), or feel free to send along an email to start the discussion.

About James Haight

James Haight is a principal analyst at Blue Hill Research focusing on analytics and emerging enterprise technologies. His primary research includes exploring the business case development and solution assessment for data warehousing, data integration, advanced analytics and business intelligence applications. He also hosts Blue Hill's Emerging Tech Roundup Podcast, which features interviews with industry leaders and CEOs on the forefront of a variety of emerging technologies. Prior to Blue Hill Research, James worked in Radford Consulting's Executive and Board of Director Compensation practice, specializing in the high tech and life sciences industries. Currently he serves on the strategic advisory board of the Bentley Microfinance Group, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to community development through funding and consulting entrepreneurs in the Greater Boston area.
Posted on August 25, 2015 by James Haight

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>