Director of data analytics: Role and key skill requirements Director of data analytics: Role and key skill requirements
Check out all the on-demand sessions from the Intelligent Security Summit here. A director of data analytics is responsible for the data analytics function... Director of data analytics: Role and key skill requirements

Check out all the on-demand sessions from the Intelligent Security Summit here.

A director of data analytics is responsible for the data analytics function within an organization. For any sizable enterprise, it is a managerial role, and may or may not report to a higher-up data executive. Likewise, it may or may not be responsible for the integration and management of data within a company (although often it will) and/or the machine learning (ML)-driven, predictive and prescriptive analytics function that may fall under an enterprise’s data science function.

That is, the director of data analytics title may be differently applied within specific organizations, depending upon the history, size and specialization of the data processing and analysis function.

In this article, we consider a manager as one in charge of a team of data analysts. However, the role may also have managerial responsibility for the organizational function of data engineering and/or data scientists. The job board Zippia is among those that has studied the typical responsibilities based on advertisements posted for the role.

This article explores the typical responsibilities and skill requirements for a director of data analytics.


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Role of a data analytics director in enterprise

Below are the roles of the director of data analytics in an enterprise.

1. Analytics

A data analytics director must first be a data analyst conversant in creating, maintaining, improving and correctly integrating analytical tools and processes across an organization’s internal departments. Next, the director of data analytics collaborates with other data leaders in an organization to define key performance indicators (KPIs) and lead the development of measurement frameworks. Then, using the patterns identified in the data, the director leads data-informed initiatives that meet KPI targets in support of company profitability and growth.

The director of data analytics role is primarily hinged on leadership and involves cutting-edge supervision of all data analytics-related activities (and maybe enterprise data warehouse management). Understanding how to manage remote and on-site teams is crucial to performing this role. As a subject matter expert, the data analytics director leads key data personnel in developing and implementing systems that boost company performance.

Should the enterprise need new analytical methods to glean specific insights, it’s the director’s responsibility to either design or recommend those approaches. Data analytics directors also drive mission-critical data-driven conversations and policies in the enterprise, educating and implementing data-based insights.

3. Incorporates data into company strategy

Occupants of this role should have a clear vision of how data can improve business operations and profitability. In addition to determining a company’s analytical strategy, the director of data analytics also defines how it fits into the overall corporate strategy. In this position, they may help enterprise leaders plan data-driven reviews and modifications of strategy, especially concerning product development, marketing and sales. 

4. Collaborates with internal heads of departments

A primary role of the director of data analytics is to lead teams in a collaborative environment. Apart from supervising data analytics and data warehouse management teams, the director needs to work with product, executive management and even operations teams to execute project deliverables with great efficiency. As a departmental head, this talent works with other department heads to influence data-driven competencies and maturity in the enterprise. To illustrate, the director may collaborate with the HR department to determine yardsticks for selecting new analytics talent in an attempt to guarantee that only the best hands are hired.

Staying on top of the latest trends and best practices in data analytics to identify enterprise growth opportunities is another responsibility of the director of data analytics. The director could also identify these patterns and recommend new ways to apply analytics to business challenges. 

Top 10 skill requirements for a director of data analytics in 2023

In no particular order, here are the top ten skills required of the director of data analytics in 2023.

1. Data visualization

The ability to transform raw, hard data into visual contexts that are easy for the human brain to understand and interpret is necessary to succeed in this role. As a director of data analytics, frequently presenting stakeholders and other organizational leaders with clear data insights gleaned from rigorous analytics is a core function. Ensuring that stakeholders understand and appreciate the insights from these large, intangible amounts of data guarantees that the information can be used to inform critical business decisions.

This is why making data “speak” remains one of the most important skills in a data analytics director’s arsenal. Common data visualization tools include charts, graphs, maps, tables, infographics and dashboards. Some organizations also prioritize knowledge of certain data visualization tools such as Periscope, PowerPoint, Keynote and Google Sheets.

2. SQL and SQL server reporting services (SSRS)

This domain-specific programming language that allows data professionals to access and manipulate data stored in relational databases is one of the most common data analysis tools. Used for storing and retrieving data from databases, organizations typically require applicants to have hands-on experience with the language (as well as other programming languages, such as Python).

Since a director of data analytics is expected to lead teams of data analysts and data warehouse personnel, a deep understanding of this language and its techniques is vital, as it will engender the production of robust and high-quality data for the enterprise. Proficiency in using SSRSs to create custom mobile, printed and graphical reports with SQL server is also an advantage. SQL comes highly recommended, and as such, stays in great demand by small and large enterprises worldwide. 

3. Leadership and social intelligence

As mentioned before, the director of data analytics role is largely leadership-oriented and, as such, calls for leadership skills in collaboration, team building, influencing and teaching/mentoring. From inspiring the trust of other departmental heads, to mentoring junior and senior analysts, this role requires great social intelligence.

A director in this capacity would be required to manage talent across cross-functional capacities and unite them in supporting the overarching goals of the enterprise. These interpersonal skills include (but are not limited to) being a problem-solver, having a can-do attitude, maintaining composure, meeting tight deadlines, and being self-motivated and proactive. Many companies prioritize candidates that have had experience working with top business executives and a demonstrated ability to handle heavy workloads in a fast-paced environment.

4. Close attention to detail

It is often the director of data analytics’ responsibility to ensure that the collection, organization, analysis and interpretation of data is thorough and seamless. As the insights obtained from this process will be used to inform subsequent enterprise-wide decisions, it is crucial that the data is clean and prepared with the greatest attention to detail.

These processes require intense focus and, as the appointed supervisor and overseer of all data-related activities in the enterprise, continuously reassessing intricate code and structures for errors and gaps is a skill that must be mastered. Dirty data left unattended has been known to cripple large data systems and inform poor business strategy.

5. Business process analysis

The director of data analytics is responsible for influencing key decisions that would affect business operations, especially as it relates to data and its capabilities. To fulfill this responsibility, understanding how to effectively assess business processes for efficiency and productivity is necessary. This is why it is demanded of candidates.

By conducting multistep examinations of key business operations, the director could identify gaps or opportunities and make data-driven recommendations. Process analysis, in itself, involves analyzing the data generated from business operations and this is within the director’s domain of influence.

6. Machine learning

Although not all data analytics projects involve machine learning (ML), the lines between ML and data analytics grow thinner every day. Mastery of this subset of AI is increasingly required of data professionals.

7. Deep understanding of data governance, regulatory compliance and privacy policy best practices

Best practices for storing and protecting customers’ sensitive data are a top enterprise concern. As a leader of data-related teams, the director of data analytics must possess a deep understanding of how data can be managed consistently and ethically across all use-cases, and guide junior professionals to follow the same path. Working knowledge of data governance tools like IBM and Collibra is also required to help the director create and maintain a solid data governance program. Knowledge of global data protection laws including CCPA and GDPR is also critical.

8. Effective communication

Excellent verbal and written communication skills are critical requirements to excel in the director of data analytics role. As a collaborative role, the director of data analytics will need to communicate effectively not only with staff, but with other departmental heads and top level executives. Regardless of the form of communication, the candidate must develop skills that allow them to translate complex data and strategy into easy-to-understand, practical terms that every person can understand.

9. Business intelligence (BI)

Business intelligence (BI) is a tech-driven process that combines business analytics, data visualization, data mining and other data infrastructure to help enterprises make profitable, data-driven decisions. Although BI is a career in itself, a data analytics department is responsible for leveraging advanced data techniques and infrastructure in support of BI as it is used across the enterprise.

10. Use of open-source data analytics tools

Working knowledge of the use of open-source tools in analyzing large and unstructured datasets is also a preferred (but not required) skill to excel in this role. These tools exist for the core parts of data analysis and help data professionals leverage community support to obtain relevant data for their organization’s growth. The ability to use popular open-source data analytics tools like Apache Hadoop is also an added advantage.

Background for a director of data analytics

Experience, skill and aptitude surpass formal educational qualification for a director of data analytics. Zippia has found that fewer than two-thirds of those in the role have a bachelor’s degree and fewer than a third hold a master’s degree, although of course such qualifications can provide relevant skills and signal aptitude.

An undergraduate degree in a relevant science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) or finance, economics or business field may be relevant. An additional graduate degree (either Master’s or Ph.D.) may similarly further qualify candidates — and, of course, provide a critical first step into a data analytics department.

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