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What is the role of a data person?

HomeWhat is the role of a data person?
31 oktober 2023

As consultant I am working with data on a daily basis for various clients. But what is my role as a data person? Data is anywhere, everywhere, and available in all kinds of formats. In this day and age, it is essential to get valuable insights out of that data. How data is turned into insights, depends on a number of things; The strategic roadmap, goals, and chosen technology-stack.

How hard is it to keep up as a data person?

In essence, I am there to help our clients turn their data into valuable information, which leads to new and actionable insights. Each client defines my role slightly different. However, tasks and responsibilities often stay the same. So, what is my role as a data person? and why does the name of my role change from time to time? Switching from the role of Business Intelligence (BI) consultant to roles such Data Analyst or Data Engineer doesn’t seem the same... right?

Secondly, the introduction of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence acted as an additional catalyst for cloud-adoption. The volume of data is growing exponentially and when you combine that with globalization and the ever-increasing storage capabilities and compute power, you end up with a huge untapped potential from which you can derive great value!

And finally, more programming languages have matured and are applicable to perform, amongst others, data transformations. However, this requires one to develop specific skills in order to keep up and even stay ahead in the data-game.

Personally, I feel that over the past years these 3 developments are the reason that roles are changing. Nevertheless, there is one linking pin between all of these, which is software engineering. With the shift to the cloud, new opportunities pop up. As a BI consultant, I am ready to use software engineering best practices and leverage CI/CD-pipelines whilst adapting test driven development. That’s why you see BI Developers, ETL developers or DWH developers nowadays working as a Data Engineer.

Is it hard to keep up? No, just put the time and effort in it!

Are we doing something entirely different now as a data person?

Anyways, back to the data and getting value of out it. Are we doing things differently? The answer is simple: No, we are not doing things differently.

Despite varying approaches in developing data platforms and information products, the shared objective remains extracting valuable insights from the data. Looking at the layers of the ‘data hierarchy’, as depicted below, we still do the same thing, but just a bit different.

BI consultants, skilled in both business and technical domains, traverse layers, integrating and comprehending diverse aspects in data-driven roles. Conversely, the Data Engineer focuses on efficiently collecting and organizing data.

Specialization led to Business Analyst (BA) roles, bridging the gap between business- and technical teams, each lacking in-depth expertise in either domain.

Despite collaboration, miscommunications between business and technical domains may occur, delaying information product delivery and hindering business improvement opportunities. Platform engineers ensure teams operate on the right platform, empowering engineers and analysts to contribute expertise and deliver value to the business.

Ultimately, the synergy of BI consultants, Data Engineers, Business Analysts, and Platform Engineers collaboratively strives to extract insights from data, while Data Scientists engage in predictive and prescriptive analyses to unlock further potential.

Another thing, that is not in the picture, but does fit in nicely at the Organize- and Analyze-layer is the introduction of Microsoft Power BI. Microsoft Power BI empowers Business Analysts for analytics on large datasets, facilitating the delivery of profound insights efficiently. It brings the ‘back-end’ BI work to the front of the report and introduces a lot of self-service analytics and possibilities.


Reflecting on the above, my role or title largely depends on the core work  I do at the client and chosen technology-stack. I can be a Data Engineer, Data Analyst, Data Scientist, or Business Analyst, depending on the requirements at that time. Ultimately, my goal is to assist clients in gaining the best and most valuable insights from their data. No matter what the data platform or my role is. I'm happy when I can use my skills to unlock untapped data potential and deliver value to the business.

And remember, with lots of data comes great responsibility!

Sjors Otten

“Insights without action is worthless”

Sjors Otten is a pragmatic and passionate data & analytics architect. He excels in leveraging the untapped potential of your organization’s data. Sjors has a solid background in Business Informatics and Software Development.

With his years of experience on all levels of IT, Sjors is the go-to-person for breaking down business- and IT-strategies in workable and understandable data & analytics solutions for all levels within your organization whilst maintaining alignment with the defined corporate strategies.

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