Beyond Unicorns

The Search For Analytics Talent

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Are you building a new analytics function or expanding an existing one?

Do you have high expectations for these analytics roles?

Does it feel like an impossible task to find the right person?

The search for analytics talent is often more difficult than it needs to be. Let’s explore ways to make the process more productive.

Do You Really Need A Unicorn?


There’s a lot of talk about unicorns, a multi-talented highly skilled individual who is both an analytics and a business expert.

Unlike the mythical creature analytics unicorns do exist but they are rare, expensive and…unnecessary.

Just as a data scientist is not one-stop-shopping for all your analytics needs, trying to find the perfect mix of business and analytics experience in one person is a frustrating and expensive way to build an analytics function. A focus on unicorns can quickly max out your hiring and workforce budget reducing the size of your potential team.

Consider A Team Approach

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Building a strong multi-faceted and diverse team is a more productive and potentially less expensive way to build your analytics function. When you bring together several individuals with complementary skill sets including subject matter, institutional, and analytics expertise you’ll get:

More Context

Analytics is about defining and solving problems which requires a deeper understanding of the context of the problem and situation. A team that contains multiple people with diverse skill sets and company knowledge will ask more relevant questions and better define problems, making it more likely that they’re solving the right problem.

The Ability to Iterate faster For Better insights

Analytics is iterative by nature. It takes several tries to find the right method and solution. A well formed and functioning team will interact and share ideas leading to more feedback. They will generate and evaluate potential solutions faster than if you only had one or two analytics unicorns.

Greater Capacity

There’s a limit to how much work one person can do, no matter how talented. Having more people will provide more capacity and the ability to share and divide work.

Less dependence on one person

If you have one or two very rare resources there is a high risk that they will go somewhere else. Building a larger team will make you less reliant on any one person. You’ll also have the opportunity to train people opening up progression paths for your employees.

Matching Talent To The Timeline

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Once you’ve mapped out your analytics vision and time frame, you’ll need to match the people to your plan.

what Do you need Now?

Building or expanding an analytics function is a process. You’ll need different skill sets along the way. If you’re developing a new function you’ll need a different set of skills than if you’re expanding one.

It’s important to identify the types of expertise that you need now and in the immediate future and use these as requirements to identify internal or external resources.

Avoid unnecessary requirements

Requiring skills, knowledge, and/or experience that you don’t yet need and may never need can cause you to overlook qualified internal and external candidates which will increase the time and cost involved in building a team.

Don’t Overlook Internal Resources


When building or expanding an analytics team consider looking within first.

Untapped potential

There are always employees with capabilities that exceed their current responsibilities who would appreciate and excel at a new challenge. Even when this requires additional training the costs may be less than hiring and on-boarding an outside resource.

Subject Matter Expertise

The best place to find people with knowledge of your existing business and business problems is by looking within. Internal candidates are more likely to have the business knowledge that will lend context to the problem.

Better Buy In

Your people know the culture of your company and have existing internal relationships that will make it easier to get things done when interacting with other departments.

Looking Beyond Unicorns

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Your team will likely be a mix of internal and new resources. Being realistic, specific, and focused in defining requirements will make it much easier to identify appropriate resources and build a strong cost effective team.

Do you need advice or guidance on building an analytics team? Contact me at to find out how Ariel Analytics can help.

About the photos: Denali National Park and Denali Highway, Alaska
Thoughts: When you’re tired of Alaska glaciers and looking for something different Denali is a great option. If you’re out at dusk you may see the Dall sheep. (They’re standing in for unicorns in this post). Beyond the park entrance, Denali is truly the wilderness. You can hike anywhere you want but there are no trails so you’ll need to know what you’re doing. For everyone else there are bus tours and ranger guided hikes. Full disclosure: all of the photos in this post were taken from the park road or from the Denali Highway which is the old Denali access road.

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