A view of the tall glass doors and palatial entry to EY offices in Dublin.
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How has a career in data analytics changed?

13 Jun 2019

We spoke to EY’s Eoin O’Reilly to find out more about how the data analytics role has changed in recent years.

At this stage, referring to data as ‘the new oil’ has been rendered a cliché, but it nevertheless rings enduringly true. In an increasingly digital world, data can completely change the way organisations do business and, as such, is deeply valuable to C-level executives.

This has inspired a lot of change in the field, particularly in terms of the types of duties someone working in data analytics has and how they are perceived within the broader scheme of the company. Yet what specifically has changed?

To find out, we chatted to Eoin O’Reilly, a partner at EY Ireland and leader of the company’s analytics and emerging tech business. For the Irish hub, that translates to roughly 130 people, having grown sharply from a team of only six in 2014.

His team essentially applies advanced techniques and AI to business problems to help its clients ensure they’re functioning at the highest possible level. It aids clients in their analytics strategies and helps them think about where analytics can be applied. EY also applies those kinds of techniques to more traditional services such as audit and tax, services that can be augmented and improved with the use of innovative technologies.

“It’s fascinating, actually. Those traditional services are all being disrupted. So how we use analytics and AI in those areas is becoming increasingly important for our clients and, increasingly, a way that we differentiate our services,” O’Reilly explains.

One way O’Reilly notes that roles in data analytics have changed is how they are perceived. They used to be, as he puts it, “lower-level” positions. In all likelihood, data analytics was once widely thought of as an esoteric and highly technical pocket of the large engine of a company.

“What we’re seeing in the market is that analytics and innovation [are] now seen as strategically important to organisations. We’re starting to see leadership roles in that arena. I think the traditional analytics professional was very focused on the tech part of the job, so building the models, applying science to data, but I think that’s probably changed a little bit. Now, people are seeing that a career in analytics is much wider. It might start in that technical domain but you have an opportunity to grow.”

As such, data analytics professionals now need to have a totally different set of skills. On top of the requisite upskilling to keep up with the breathless pace of technological advancement, your career in data analytics may very well now involve storytelling.

“How do [data professionals] tell a story about data to senior organisations, make it real? How do they collaborate in an organisation? How do they work with traditional skills in finance, supply chain and operations to really bring analytics to life? Analytics skills on their own don’t mean that you’re going to have a successful analytics programme,” said O’Reilly.

People working in this space will have a deep – and in many ways unprecedented – connection to the business side of an organisation. Not only does that require commercial acumen, but communication. Ultimately, many professionals working in data analytics will have to explain what they do to people without a data background, and do so in a sufficiently accessible way.

“It’s still a scientific discipline so the technical skills are still important. That should never be watered down. But I think if you can match these three Cs – creativity, communication and collaboration – you’ve got a really good standout analytics professional.”

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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