No matter what your business sells, makes, or creates, understanding what the data says about your customers, your products, and your brand is critical to your success.As a business collects more data, the need to manage and understand it grows as well. Often, this may require the help of data analytics consulting services. But how do you know when you need a data analytics consultant, how do you pick the right one, and how do you make sure there is value added to your business from their services?In this blog we will define what a data analytics consultant does, how you can identify challenges within your organization that could benefit from the help of data analytics consulting services, and what to consider before hiring a data analytics consultant.What Does a Data Analytics Consultant Do?To survive in a data-driven economy, organizations need to make smart, data-driven decisions. Data and analytics consulting services enable an organization to translate their data into meaningful and actionable information—creating a data-driven culture and driving business goals forward.A data analytics consultant looks at their client’s full picture—with an unbiased external perspective—to understand their goals and challenges. Sometimes the consultant provides a full breadth of services including capturing the current state of the organization to designing the future state and delivering an analytics roadmap that will enable the organization to realize the power of its data. Other times, however, a data analytics consultant is brought on to help with a solution implementation, develop an analytics solution for a very specific use case, or simply run a health check on existing systems.A data analytics consultant can help with a variety of things, including:Connect Analytics to the Big Picture: To fully understand how to enable your data, a consultant needs to first understand how data and analytics fits into your company’s overall strategy. A data and analytics consultant can bring in a new perspective and ask probing questions about what your business users want from existing analytics systems, as well as explore challenges and roadblocks keeping users within your organization from reaching its potential with data. The perspective of an external consultant, coupled with the extensive experience they have, can help challenge status quo, and identify blind spots.Assess Current Analytics Maturity Level: Before moving to addressing goals and solving challenges, a data and analytics consultant should work to understand an organization’s analytics maturity level. This involves talking to stakeholders—business and technical—and taking stock of data sources and technologies, reviewing business processes, and assessing an organization’s staff skillset. This will allow the consultant to identify gaps and propose ways of addressing them, as well as determine which modern analytics pillar the client is ready to use.Develop Strategy and Create a Roadmap to Level Up Analytics Maturity: Once the data and analytics consultant better understands an organization’s current analytics maturity level, they can begin to design the future state—looking to meet business goals and overcome existing challenges. This starts with developing a data strategy that details exactly how and when the business goals can be accomplished, taking into account technical feasibility and business value to prioritize use cases. With a holistic understanding of an organization’s data and analytics needs, as well as its capabilities in meeting them, a consultant creates a customized roadmap that outlines what data, analytics, technologies, programs, and resources you need to meet business goals.Assist in Implementation of Strategy, Solutions, and Software: A data analytics consultant can be brought in to focus on a client’s analytics or data management implementation needs—whether they helped develop the strategy or not. They can also assist with moving to the cloud, or the implementation of an analytics solution. Data and analytics consulting services offer a depth of knowledge across various software and solutions and can help an organization with all its implementation needs.A data and analytics consultant should be able to help you with your entire data and analytics lifecycle—from strategy to implementation—so that you can make sense of your data and use it to not only address current business challenges, but to also drive business growth.What Data and Analytics Challenges Is Your Organization Facing?As consumer expectations continue to change, organizations will look to data and analytics to help bridge the gap in meeting those expectations. Although some businesses are further along on their analytics maturity, others have a ways to go in building a data strategy, learning to manage the data they have, and ultimately using business intelligence solutions to draw value from their data. Just as types of businesses vary, so do the types of data and analytics challenges. But here are a few modern business challenges that would benefit from the help data analytics consulting services:Data Quality: Data is a vital asset to any organization, but for it to be useful, it needs to be of high-quality. If an organization isn’t taking steps to ensure the quality of its data, then it can lead to costly mistakes and missed opportunities. Some sources of bad quality data include business process issues, lack of actively managed reference data, lack of clear ownership, and lack of data standards. A data consultant can help address this issue with a data strategy focused on people, processes, and technology.Disparate Data Sources and Data Silos: Organizations are collecting data from multiple sources, which in turn leads to data silos and segmentation—making it more complex to not only integrate all the data, but to make it accessible to those who need to use it. A data analytics consultant can not only help with best practices in data management and data architecture, but they can also advice in your data and analytics software selection.Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics Software Selection: As more organizations look to plan for the future, modernizing data and analytics becomes critical. Whether you’re looking for better enterprise reporting or to implement embedded analytics—or if you’re looking to improve user adoption of analytics and drive a data-driven culture within your organization, selecting the right BI and analytics tools is critical. An analytics consultant can help you sift through the choices and understand how each tool would work within your current data architecture—helping to address scalability and flexibility, integration of new sources, faster time to insights, and democratization of access to data. A consultant can make sure you stay on track and meet your data and analytics needs.Advanced Analytics and Data Science: As an organization grows in its analytics maturity, using advanced analytics such as machine learning and predictive analytics becomes more of an option. An analytics consultant can help with everything from prepping your data to predictive modeling and implementation—ensuring that you get repeatable and trusted results.What Should I Look for When Hiring A Data Analytics Consultant? There are many options available when it comes to selecting a consultant to help you with your data and analytics needs. No matter who you decide to hire, there are three key things to consider in order to ensure your project is successful and that your needs are met. 1.) Know What You Want: What’s Your Endgame?Having a clear objective as to why you are hiring a data analytics consultant is key to not only meeting those objectives, but also in being able to identify the right consultant. Understanding the tools or technologies you’re planning on working with will help to tailor your consultant recruitment efforts and targeted hiring. Consider scenarios like future state scaling: if you have a legacy architecture/BI tool in place and are planning a near-term migration to the cloud, then is the right consultant someone who can support the existing infrastructure, more oriented in skills toward your future state architecture, or someone in between? If you know your endgame, you are better equipped to ask questions and to agree on the scope of the work needed.2.) Know What You Have—Or Don’t HaveReaching out to a consultant means that you either lack the internal resources or the knowledge needed for your data and analytics initiatives. Sometimes, it could be both. You could have the staff in-house, but they just might not have the bandwidth to support a full-scale development. Sometimes, you may simply need advisory and best practices services from a consulting perspective. Other times it necessitates a full-scale implementation team. Before hiring a consultant, make sure you know where the gaps are so that you can be better prepared to pick the right consultant to meet your needs.3.) Know Who You’re Talking To: Not All Data Analytics Consultants Are Created EqualDo your research. When looking into different data and analytics consultants, explore the services provided; dig into the level of experience, as well as the type of experience within the organization; and understand how the company works. Finding the right fit is critical to making sure the project is successful and that your objectives are met. Setting aside technical skills for a minute, some soft skills and traits that make a difference include:Someone who is methodical: A good consultant should be able to explain their thought process as well as their decision-making. Whether they bring to bear different insights and approaches, or work within the set of requirements dictated to them as part of the project, their ability to be methodical will enable clear communication across the board.Someone who is agile: A good consultant can listen to and understand your needs, as well as evaluate your work culture and adjust their approach accordingly. Do you have in-house strategists and just need task takers, or do you need someone to come in and challenge status quo? Knowing how to read the room and adapt is key to moving a project along and ensuring its success.Someone who is on time: Having the ability to technically grasp the work is important, but so is knowing how to manage the work. A good consultant can manage scope and timeliness effectively without sacrificing the quality of the project.Someone who is intellectually curious: A good consultant has technical expertise and business acumen, but they also have a good sense of curiosity. Data and analysis are moving targets, so the ability to wonder beyond what is in front of you will help keep pace. You should not be the only one asking questions. A consultant who wants to learn more, will do more.Someone who is invested: Seeking this trait out may be more based on intuition than practicality but trust your gut. You want a consultant that cares about the project as much as you do.As you look to dig deep into your data and understand what it can for your organization, make sure to look just as closely into who can help you do it right.