Saturday, September 22, 2012

Do job titles mean anything anymore?

When did job titles stop representing someone’s responsibilities; especially when the term “analyst” applies?  Whether it’s a data analyst, marketing analyst, research analyst, financial analyst, or business analyst (I think you get the picture),  I’m starting to think the people in charge of handing out titles must have lost sight of the definition of “analysis.”
Here’s’s definition of the word analyze:
verb (used with object), an·a·lyzed, an·a·lyz·ing.
1. to separate (a material or abstract entity) into constituent parts or elements; determine the elements or essential features of (opposed to synthesize): to analyze an argument.
2. to examine critically, so as to bring out the essential elements or give the essence of: to analyze a poem.
3. to examine carefully and in detail so as to identify causes, key factors, possible results, etc.
4. to subject to mathematical, chemical, grammatical, etc., analysis.
5. to psychoanalyze: a patient who has been analyzed by two therapists.
Now, “analyst” seems to show up in titles for anyone having any remote responsibility around numbers or spreadsheets.
Sometimes it feels like 50-75% of “analysts” I come in contact with don’t meet the definition expectations, which can be especially frustrating if you have the expectation that they are going to analyze something.  In a crazy world where people’s egos wouldn’t get hurt, I would propose that many research and data jobs should have titles that would be more reflective of their responsibilities.
Here’s my suggestion for titles in ranking order of data responsibilities:
1.)    Research Distributor:  Someone who outputs or distributes reports, results, articles, or studies directly from the original resources to varying managers, clients, analysts, sales people or personnel.
2.)    Research Translator:  Someone who reformats or refines raw data into charts and graphs.  They also share the responsibilities of a “Research Distributor.”
3.)    Research Summarizer:  Someone who extracts basic highlights from a large data set (summarizes highs, lows and/or biggest changes or differences of comparison).  He or she likely has the responsibilities of a “Research Distributor and Translator.”
4.)    Research Analyst:  Someone who investigates, examines, summarizes, translates and distributes data, but most importantly, uncovers trends, shifts, insights, or correlations impacting business or marketing decisions.  This person is also responsible for succinctly communicating the most salient points of their analysis.  Simply put, they analyze.
5.)    Research Synthesist:  A research analyst that integrates seemingly disparate sources of data or information to provide strategic insight impacting business or marketing decisions.
I’ve been in all these roles in my short career in research.  I started as a “Marketing Coordinator,” got a title change to “Marketing Analyst” (when I was probably only a “Research Summarizer” at the time) and have since moved into Senior and Director/Manager roles.  I’m not saying we don’t need, distributors, translators, or summarizers, because they are an important part of data and research.  I would simply like to see the word “analyst” reserved for those that are responsible for analyzing.  It would sure help set up better expectations.
Marketing Research Methodological Foundations, Tenth Edition best states the role of a “researcher,” which can be coupled with analysts:
“Marketing researchers should be able to communicate well both orally and in writing, e.g., to tell colleagues and clients what the results are and what they mean.  They need to understand business in general and marketing in particular because they’ll deal with brand managers, advertisers, and sales people.  Successful marketing researchers realize that marketing research is conducted for one reason – to help make better marketing decisions.”