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Your Star Analyst Just Left the Team — What Do You Do Now?

  • aginity 

It finally happened. Your star analyst, beloved by the business for producing those top-notch analytics, just flew the nest.  Talent moves; every analytic team has dealt with this scenario. And while we don’t have the magic bullet for how to keep that talent, we can share some smart moves to mitigate the risk when someone leaves your team.

First here are some thoughts that run through our mind when we’re faced with this challenge:

  1. Can we even find the analyst’s work?
  2. Will we be able to continue to run their critical (but not automated) code?
  3. Did they follow our process to inventory their work?
  4. How did they produce the code?
  5. Who’s going to do their work now?

Let’s take a look at each of these risks.

1. Finding Their Work

Where is our star analyst storing their code? The major risk here is not being able to take immediate ownership of the “star’s” assets (not to mention knowing that those assets were created by the “star” in the first place) and re-distribute those assets to your existing team or to the new analyst.

Code stored on a hard drive walks away more easily or gets missed when the IT group transitions that computer to the next staff member.

With a file sharing system, we might have trouble determining which work belongs to the “star” if my system doesn’t include the who, what, how and why for each our our analytics.

2. Running Critical (but not Automated) Code

We don’t let those reports, campaigns, or models go unrefreshed. Make sure the mission critical jobs continue to run and find out which of those run daily but may not be automated.

3. Inventory Their Code

Our departing analyst produced an impressively large and high-value body of work — that’s why they’re a star, right? Understanding that body of work — what type of analytics they developed, executed, and shared — will smooth its transition to a new analyst. Which leads us to…

4. How, Exactly, Did They Produce That Beautiful Code?

We should all be familiar with data governance by now, but not all companies treat their analytics with the same attention to detail. When analytic code is documented, tagged, and searchable, our whole team can better understand the methods, rules, or techniques used to create it and use that knowledge as the foundation for future code. The star’s legacy lives on when my other analysts can learn from, and build on, their excellent work.

5. Finding a Replacement

It can be helpful to start the talent search internally — existing staff already know your business and can ramp up quickly. And when we’ve addressed #1–4 above, we give the existing team a launch platform, allowing them to absorb the work of the departing analyst without losing productivity. Not only does this smooth the transition, it also makes it more likely that we’ll discover my next star.

The Key to a Smooth Transition

We’ve learned that when we treat analytics as assets and set up systems to keep them findable, shareable, and traceable, it hurts less when star players are traded to another team. Because their legacy is preserved, we find the team weathers the transition more efficiently, and we are able to onboard new talent and get back up to speed quickly.

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