“Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a voice.”
In today’s economy, the importance of this message is increasingly significant. The big data phenomenon is driving countless innovation and creating a buzz across industry. Business Analytics is becoming all the rage. Data science is the new “sexy” job.
Convincing the organization to take notice and change remains a challenge.
This Christmas, to ensure data analytics, our “true love”, is allowed to shine its red nose and safely lead the way in 2014, consider the following fourtools to give the story a voice by building a trusted analytical capability in your organization:
- Define the required core competencies for your analytics team
- Communicate a vision and delivery roadmap for analytic capability
- Define your team structure
- Invest in your team and their ability to execute
1. Define the required core competencies for your analytics team
Focus allows us to deliver spectacular results. Ironically, focus requires focus in order to deliver meaningful business results. Sounds like common sense right? Now think about how many teams you have been part of that have been allowed to grow organically without clear purpose?
In order to get the right focus for your business, you must have clearly defined core competencies for your analytics team. For example, if your business strategy is to compete on “cost leadership” the core competencies of your team may focus on driving efficiency in business processes to remove cost by controlling production costs or providing decision making tools for outsourcing decisions. If your business strategy is to compete on “innovation leadership” then the core competency of your analytics team may focus on providing a test and learn capability to allow your business to quantify the value of new products or offerings before having to invest too much.
A great example of how the definition of the core competence of an organisation’s analytics capability drove the focus is at Loyalty New Zealand, the leading loyalty coalition in New Zealand, with over 75% household penetration. Loyalty defined their core analytics competency as having the ability "to use the data we have to deliver better, faster and more sophisticated statistical analysis."
As a result, Loyalty New Zealand are now able to create analytical models in under 30 minutes! These models drive campaigns that are now created and executed in less than a day, down from more than 20 days previously.
To be able to get to this point, Loyalty New Zealand had a vision and a plan.
2. Communicate a vision and delivery roadmap for analytic capability
It is well known that communication is critical for an analytics capability in an organization if the information is to be trusted. To be trusted, analytical capability needs to be communicated to the business in their terms. It is only then that the business will want to engage with you. They understand what you are saying and can assess the potential value you might be able to add to their goals. A critical tool to assist with earning the trust of the business is to communicate (and document) a vision for the analytical capability.
An organisation’s analytical capability is unique in that it is often responsible for the execution of other business divisions' strategy. For example, creating response models and campaigns for the marketing team. For this reason, it is extremely important to have a delivery roadmap that shows how organizational assets such as the analytics technology is increasingly integrated with campaign and other operational technology, and how these capabilities impact the organisation’s business strategy.
My colleague Evan Stubbs in his book Delivering Business Analytics, Practical Guidelines for Best Practice, defines this process as:
- Define the vision
- Understand the current state
- Move to target state
- Measure and refine
Critical to this process is to align the vision and delivery roadmap to that of your internal customers. Strong engagement with key stakeholders is required to achieve this. Making the change sustainable requires ongoing stakeholder engagement, and, importantly, strength and courage to keep those stakeholders accountable. Too often, analytics leaders bend to the will of their business counterparts due to business priorities. Often times these are unstructured reactions to competitive activity or noise that arises from someone who shouts the loudest.
Use your vision and delivery roadmap continuously to ensure the analytics team is consistently delivering value, but also to challenge your internal customers on the relevance and priority of a change in direction.
3. Define your team structure
Determining the team structure is critical as it communicates the “how” of the delivery roadmap. Consistency is once again important, both in the structure you implement as well as the processes that you enforce.
Let’s look at our two examples from the first point. A cost leadership strategy requires efficiencies. Analytics teams working in this environment should be functionally focused on product or very specific processes. They will become specialists in these subject domains and be able to turn work products over much quicker in time.
An innovation leadership strategy requires the team to push boundaries, make quicker decisions and challenge the status quo. A cross-functional team structure best facilitates this ideation process.
4. Invest in your team and your ability to execute
This starts with you first and foremost! Make sure you are devoting enough of your time to set the right examples, coaching your business engagement managers and living the values you would like your team to exhibit.
Partner with your internal customer(s) to arrange three month job rotation programs early in the analyst's career. The experience and understanding a data analyst will gain spending three months building campaigns for marketing provides invaluable context when building a response model for the next campaign. They will know why marketing mandates going with the 100,000 leads for a campaign rather than the 30,000 the model recommends. They will also know how best to work the process to try and get a better outcome.
Use the roadmap to focus the training and change program for your team.
The final step of this investment is to provide your team and the broader business with the tools to put insight into action. At the heart of this is funding. Investing in the right analytic tools is an important part of capability to execute, however more importantly is the need to obtain enough funds to cover the span of the delivery roadmap. Analytics projects are more than technology. They are more about change management, particularly as the output are becoming more embedded into business processes. The change management aspect of the project is where the story becomes reality. If done properly (i.e. funded) this is where our “true love” is found. If done properly, our true love will lead the way through the storm and Santa will successfully deliver all our presents.
Happy Christmas. May all your analytics projects be well funded in the New Year!