Benefits of Hiring a Fractional Data Analyst (Over a Full-Time Data Analyst)
Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Analytics and data have been buzzwords for a while, but only recently have they become relevant to the point of necessity in the small business world.
We all know that data is extremely important and everything you do should be tracked to an extent. Once it's tracked, it should be measured. Once measured, monitored. Once monitored, acted upon.
But that's tough to do! It's a lot of work to be able to handle all that data. That's probably why you're reading this article…
What is a Fractional Analyst?
This may be a new term for a lot of people as the term itself has really only been popularized by us at Pineapple Consulting Firm (at least that we know of at the time of writing).
"Fractional" may be a more familiar term as the roles of Fractional CFOs, Fractional CMOs, Fractional (any C Suite member), etc. have been quickly growing in popularity. Those are folks who come in as part-time, outsourced resources to help lead the organization based on their years of experience in the field. They generally have long engagements because it takes a while to "turn a big ship" as many of them corporately proclaim.
Fractional Analysts are very similar, but we support the existing C suite or other decision makers instead of replacing / acting as them. We use our years of experience in the data, analytics, and data visualization fields to solve the problem of folks not being able to use their data to the extent that they want to! Just like the team of corporate analysts many people are familiar with from their Fortune 500 jobs, we are that outsourced resource for small businesses!
The short version - Fractional Analysts are part-time, outsourced, resources that are experts in a variety of analytical fields.
What's the cost difference between full-time and fractional?
Data is important and it's a skill that not a lot of folks have (or at least not a lot of people like doing it). Therefore, it can be expensive!
And I don't just mean the price tag for a full-time data analyst - but check out Indeed or Glass Door and you'll see that high-end data analysts are easily $100k / year in salary alone, while entry-level analysts are typically $60 - 75k / year. There is also the expense of training them up, getting them familiar with the company, and then having to rehire someone once they leave to work for one of the big 4 consulting companies. That's a daunting journey with some big dollar signs.
Fractional analysts come in with expertise in the data that you're working with, and on the off chance we don't have existing expertise, we've almost definitely seen something similar before and can quickly pick it up! We also are well-versed in all the tools to handle the data (from 3rd party APIs like Coupler and Zapier to data warehouses like mySQL and Google Big Query) and the BI (business intelligence) tools to show the data visually in a dashboard, like Google Looker (Data) Studio, Power BI, Tableau, etc.
For internally hired analysts, there is always someone willing to pay more for data analysts. Or financial analysts. Or operations analysts. All the analysts.
For fractional analysts, we are already somewhere else and our rates are our rates! If you'd hire a mid-range full-time analyst at $80k / year, you're on the hook for that plus bonus and raises. For fractional analysts, we do generally have a 6-month minimum contract (then month to month) where the mid-range contract - not mid-range skill level this time though… mid-range involvement level - is between $3 - 5k / month. So in 6 months, you can get probably everything you need for a max of $30k. Plus we don't need PTO, benefits, insurance, etc.
We are already consultants too, so working with you is the goal, not the stepping stone. Our goal is to meet your team's needs and continually provide value. It's not to gain the skills necessary to leave for the big 4 firms. I don't want to disparage full-time analysts by any means because I'm a fan of analysts however they're used, but there are very legitimate benefits to hiring fractional (at least initially).
What Do Data Analysts Do in Both Scenarios?
If you're considering a full-time analyst, there's a good chance that you have a whole lot of stuff going on internally. Some broken Excel files that need fixing, some new ones that need to be created, some data that needs to be transformed, etc.
It seems like a lot! But there's a good chance that's just because you and the majority of the C suite have absolutely no time to think about it, let alone do it, aside from it potentially not being your favorite skill set. It's an extra daunting amount of work.
To an experienced analyst, though, it's not. Excel dashboards are relatively quick fixes in the scope of things, even if they have to be completely refreshed from scratch. Once the data from system A talks to system B (after some quick educated Googling and trial and error) then you're onto the easy part of just building the dashboard.
All this stuff certainly requires expertise and a trained eye, but it actually can be fairly standard work for a good analyst. Now, for a kid out of college, yes, it is a lot because of the similar learning curve you in the C suite would have. For someone who does this professionally, it's kind of the regular job and stuff that we genuinely enjoy doing!
So although the amount of things might seem like a full-time, dedicated resource is necessary, there's a good chance it's not as bad as you think. Most small businesses don't need a full analyst team or even a single data analyst in reality. It's not because the business doesn't focus on data or see the value in it, it's just that they only work in 5 or 6 different software and just want some dashboards and ad hoc analysis to go along with it. That can be ongoing work for sure, and you could have someone fractional for 6, 12, 18 months and use them as needed instead of a full-time resource.
Plus they'll still be part of the team and develop a strong relationship with the folks they need to. "Fractional" doesn't mean disassociated and distant from the team. We're here to help and we know that the relationship works best when everyone enjoys working together!
Again, some simple math… a kid out of college for $65k to take a while to get deliverables complete and then be bored with a bunch of downtime once the workload dries up in 10 months, or a fractional analyst at $4k / month who will get things done even faster, much better, and you can pause when the workload dries up.
Full-time vs Fractional Data Analyst Summary
A full-time analyst can be super beneficial, don't get me wrong. Again, I'm a fan of analysts being used in whatever capacity makes sense.
A fractional analyst likely makes more sense for most small businesses though. You can still develop a fantastic team-member-type relationship, get all of the work done (potentially even more efficiently and effectively), and save a significant amount of money at the same time.
A standard project will take a good analyst that's right out of college maybe 20 - 30 working hours. It'll take a fractional analyst 10 hours and it'll be done with the highest quality possible.
So why hire fractional instead of full-time? It's just math.
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