Ten steps to business analytics


At the Premier Business Leadership Series today, Paul Arsego of Northeast Utilities offered up these ten steps to advancing business analytics adoption – to a packed house of attendees.

Given the standing room only for his presentation – and the attendance at this conference -- it seems that people are getting serious about adopting business analytics, and want to learn from the people who have already done it.

Here are Paul’s tips for getting started:

  1. Perform an honest assessment of the current state of analytics in your organization. Consider tools, talent and domain expertise, because all three are needed to advance analytics.
  2. Present the assessment in an educational, constructive manner to senior leadership, in the context of why analytically based insight is so critical to making business decisions. For supporting points, Paul cites factors such as:
    • The data surge will increase fivefold by 2012.
    • Data is getting too complicated to manage the old fashioned way.
    • Intuitive and experiential expertise is losing out to number crunching.
    • Risks can be narrowed by more precise analysis.
    • A focus on business analytics and business intelligence provides strategic advantage.

    He also gives stakeholders a copy of Stephen Baker’s The Numerati, to help educate them about the significant role that data is playing in our professional and personal lives.

  3. Establish a sense of urgency. Utilities, in particular, collect “a ton"? of data, which is only going to increase as they build better data collection systems (from smart grid, Web, and customer service).
  4. Show where the gaps exist. Paul spoke at length about the value he has received from using SAS’8 levels of analytics graphic, to help educate and excite people about the potential of advanced analytics, and to help incorporate the terminology into his stakeholders’ vocabularies. Against this model, Paul has plotted Northeast Utilities' current knowledge, future/desired knowledge, current resources and future resources, to show the context of where strengths and gaps exist. It’s been a great way to get people used to asking what happened, why did it happen and what might happen next?
  5. Recognize your strategic partners and engage. Early on, Paul met with his CFO about the direction he wanted to go with business analytics (and gave him a copy of The Numerati too), so that his CFO was more prepared when Paul brought the business case. Paul had identified the exact areas where the CFO, CIO, COO would have influence on the business case.
  6. Demonstrate quick wins.
  7. Seize the opportunity. Recommend as complete a package of tools and required technologies as possible up front. Northeast Utilities organized around a business analytics center of excellence, and now organizations like the strategy group are coming to the team for help.
  8. Continue to educate. Paul’s recommended reading list includes: Tom Davenport’s Competing on Analytics, Super Crunchers, Freakonomics and The Numerati.
  9. Create an environment of sustainability. Keep momentum going, keep looking ahead to the next project to maintain excitement about the impact the efforts are having.
  10. Roadmap the future. Senior leaders participates in Paul’s steering committee, to help assess priorities and project status – which, according to Paul, helps them feel more vested and involved. It also gives senior leaders more visibility into the requests coming in, which reflects the needs of the business.

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Kelly Levoyer

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