Gasp! Your data specialist is leaving. Now what?

Published | Thursday, February 23rd, 2017


Imagine the scenario: Your data specialist is leaving your office and you’re still letting the news sink in. They’ve been your go-to person for years, giving you the information you needed from whatever system you came across. No question was too big, and no system challenge too great. Now they are moving to a new company, leaving you feeling lost.

It doesn’t have to be as bad as you fear.

What now?

First, don’t panic. There is light at the end of the tunnel. To ensure a smooth transition, there are a few simple steps you can take before they leave the building.

Ideally, I recommend everyone get these in place as a matter of best practice, even if your data specialist has not announced plans of leaving. But if you get caught unprepared, that’s OK: you still have a chance to patch it together in the last few weeks that your data specialist will be working for you.

Here are three things you should consider:

  1. Documentation – Your data specialist has a lot of important knowledge in their head that’s going to leave with them unless you get at least some of it written down. Most importantly, focus on where the data is coming from. Ask for information about the various source systems and get names of the key contacts for each one. Better yet, ask your data analyst if they have well documented scripts for these data sources. If so, find out where they are located. The perfect situation would be to have an ACL Analytics Exchange server loaded with this information so that it’s always available, no matter where your data specialist or their computer goes.
  2. Peer training – We know that any data analyst position entails a unique skill set, and that it takes time for a new person to get up to speed. Reduce this time by assigning a backup person that works with your data specialist at least once a week. This will build up a second valuable resource and also provide your data specialist someone to bounce ideas off and provide peer review on their script writing. It is just as important, if not more, as having someone proofread the report you just wrote.
  3. System access – There will probably be several systems to which your data specialist has access. These should be noted in their documentation. You will need to ensure that your backup person or new hire continues to have access to these same systems. For security reasons, do not share passwords. Instead, notify IT that you need to have a new account set up and have them grant your new data specialist the appropriate level of access. If you have an Analytics Exchange server, set up a new account before your existing data specialist leaves and grant them admin rights. (I’ve seen customers that failed to do this: they ask if I could unlock their ACL Analytics Exchange server with some sort of back door password. Sorry, for security reasons, this doesn’t exist!)

Now, if you have someone who has been shadowing your data specialist, it will be an easy move to promote them into that role. If not, there are still options.

Consider looking internally at people that have knowledge of how the processes flow through your systems—this is typically more important than finding someone who knows the back-end system infrastructure. ACL has great 24/7 on-line training in ACL Academy as well as next generation how-to documentation in Help Docs. There are also thousands of passionate ACLers and gurus in the ACL Community, to share best practices, discuss strategies, swap techniques and exchange experience.

If you look externally, look for people that have the ACL Certified Data Analytics (ACDA) designation. This will give you some assurance that they have the skills needed to do the job.

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