Saying no to silos

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These days, “silo” has become a dirty word within organizations – full of negative connotations about curmudgeonly individuals or teams not playing well with others.

But at the How to Compete on Analytics: Apply It event in San Francisco on June 4th, SAS speaker Bob Messier advised the audience to cast aside the tabooed silo label in favor of the slightly more euphemistic term, “Cylinders of Excellence.”

That’s right folks, shun that label – do recognize that eliminating the actual silo might actually take a bit more time and effort – and consider the new nomenclature the first step toward establishing your centralized analytical competency center!

Hey, it’s a start, right?

Turns out, “a start” is exactly what a significant number of these event attendees were seeking.

Quite a few attendees remarked on being in the nascent stages of their analytical development. Some of the questions during Q&A honed in on exact next steps to begin the effort, what pitfalls should a new analytical team avoid, and how to plan for a scalable analytical operation.

It‘s safe to say there are many approaches to establishing an analytical arm to boost your existing BI strategy or to start from scratch. A few of those approaches will work. A number will flat out fail.

But there was some consistent advice given from featured speakers, Jeanne Harris, co-author of the acclaimed book, Competing on Analytics, John Blackwell, associate director of business intelligence and analytics at The Nature Conservancy and the aforementioned, Bob Messier, SAS contributor to new business vernacular.

  • The experts advised planning for the long term but focusing for now. Focus on manageable projects and do those well. There is time to scale to meet the needs of the enterprise, but you may never get started if you wait for the perfect circumstances.
  • Another recurring theme was patience. Elusive for many, I know, but necessary. One specific example described a process that tested the business-as-usual, experienced approach to direct marketing efforts vs. using an analytically optimized marketing list. The test went on for twelve (count ‘em, 12) months. And at the end of that period the optimized list clearly outperformed the status quo list. But most importantly, at the end of that year, the test converted the naysayers through irrefutable performance. People are reluctant to give up the gut feel and intuition and it is unlikely you’ll convince them through talking – take the time to show and prove the point.
  • There is a risk of throwing out the baby with bathwater – Jeanne Harris repeatedly pointed out that analytics and an experienced “gut" are not mutually exclusive. Both have a place in truly innovative organizations. We often hear that analytic testing confirms a professional hunch. It’s as it should be. What good is all that experience if you haven’t learned a thing or two along the way? The goal should be to achieve a bolder culture that embraces analytics rather than shying away from the data. If your gut is telling you something, put it to the test. At the very least, you’ve given your organization that much of an edge in learning. At the most, you get to say (very loudly), I TOLD YOU SO!

Attention Chicagoans! You have the opportunity to attend this event, get answers to your questions and hear the experts firsthand. The next event is June 24th in the Windy City.

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Ericka Wilcher

Sr. Marketing Specialist

Ericka Wilcher is a Senior Marketing Specialist at SAS, specializing in developing and executing innovative marketing campaigns for brand awareness and lead generation. Ericka specializes in digital strategies for advertising, content creation and syndication, and interactive promotional technologies. Follow @ErickaWilcher on Twitter for more!

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