What do you want to do with your life? If you choose data analytics, the possibilities are endless. From fighting cybercrime, to bringing lifesaving drugs to market or signing a world-class footballer, data analytics gives you a front seat at many of the most exciting developments in business and society. Here are just a few of the roles on offer.
In sports, teams and coaches use a variety of data strategies to gain a competitive advantage. In-game performance, patterns in game play, the weaknesses and strengths of the opposition—data analysts study all these areas. Today their insights frequently make the difference between a club winning the league title or finishing as a runner up.
They also play a critical role in recruitment, helping to discover players in lower leagues who have the potential to perform at the highest level. In an industry worth billions of dollars, it’s a role that comes with enormous responsibilities, but the potential rewards are just as impressive.
Medicine is another area of data analytics that is seeing rapid growth. At the front line of health care, data analysts are responsible for interpreting large amounts of data to help healthcare providers make better decisions. They study patient records, track trends in disease prevalence and treatments, identify patterns in patient behaviors, and evaluate the effectiveness of treatments and medications.
They also help medical organizations increase efficiency, especially during periods of high demand and possible staff shortages. In a recent proof of concept in Paris, four hospitals crunched around 10 years’ worth of data to identify patterns in admission rates and assist resource allocation. This enabled hospital employees to predict visits and admissions for up to 15 days in advance, significantly improving the patient experience.
It’s hard to summarize in a single paragraph the opportunities for data analysts in finance. But two areas stand out in recent months. Firstly risk management in consumer banking where data is used to vet customers and offer lending or mortgage deals based on the individual’s risk profile. As we enter another period of economic uncertainty, banks able to deliver a great customer experience without compromising risk management are best placed to succeed.
In a separate area, data is the ammunition in the non-stop battle against cybercrime. As the threat landscape evolves, banks are refining data strategies to repel DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks, ransomware, phishing, malicious code and other hazards.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, data analysts are helping to map changes in the use of public travel networks and private vehicles. One recent study revealed an increase in activity in suburban and seaside towns as people spend more time in local communities and less time commuting into city centers.
By identifying short and long-term trends, data analysts enable urban planners to make informed decisions when planning building projects, schools, and healthcare centers. These insights are also fundamental to the development of ’15 minute cities’ where essential amenities, shops and green spaces are all within walking distance of residential properties.
Data analysts are at the forefront of international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize global warming. In 2022, a team of researchers used machine learning algorithms to analyze detailed satellite images and identify high levels of methane emissions. Many of these were related to pipeline defects which were quickly repaired.
Agriculture also benefits. Data analysts are helping farmers to make optimum use of land and water to avoid waste and reduce the use of fertilizers that release harmful greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide.
In the next article, we’ll look at the options available for career changers who want to retrain to become a data analyst.