Is the data analyst you’re thinking about hiring qualified to do the work that’s required? Does he or she have all the requisite skill sets to add true value to the business? As the importance of big data grows for businesses across the board, the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences is trying to help them answer those questions.

The Institute, better known by its acronym — INFORMS — has launched a certification program to define and establish the requisite credentials for professional data analysts. "We realized that many people are throwing up a shingle that says ‘I can do this,’ but companies had no good way to determine if that was true,” INFORMS president Anne Robinson tells Information Management.

INFORMS, a 10,000-member international organization of analytics professionals, decided to develop the certification three years ago, when it commissioned a study by Capgemini to assess the growing impact of data analytics within the business community. The study determined that many organizations were uncertain how to select analysts or what requirements to look for, according to Jack Levis, vice president of practice activities at INFORMS and Director of process management at UPS. Certification was conceived as a way to help them find and hire qualify people that could help them leverage their data.

Dubbed the Certified Analytics Professional or CAP program, INFORMS held its first certification exam in April and has certified 44 data analysts to date. The pass rate on the exam was 70 percent.

Robinson, who is director of supply chain strategy and analytics at Verizon Wireless, says another 250 people have applied to take the exam, which will be offered at least four more times this year in cities around the country. In order to qualify to sit for the exam, candidates must demonstrate the appropriate educational background, work experience and communication skills. In addition, a current or former employer must attest that the individual added true value to the business.

INFORMS is also assessing the feasibility of computer-based testing, which would broaden the pool of potential candidates. The examination takes two to three hours and covers seven critical areas of knowledge or domains. These include:
• Business problem framing
• Analytics problem framing
• Data collection, assessment and management
• Methodology selection
• Model building
• Model deployment
• Model lifecycle management

Many companies are considering adopting the CAP certification as a prerequisite for employment, Robinson says, and a number of academic institutions are reviewing the requirements and considering tailoring their programs so that graduates will be qualified to sit for the exam.

In a few years’ time, Robinson hopes that the CAPs designation will become as widely recognized as the PMP certification is today for professional project managers. “Wherever you see PMP today, you will see CAP tomorrow,” she says.

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