Seven strategic considerations for an Analytics Center of Expertise


In a previous post I discussed managing analytic all-stars. Now, let's talk about how you can really use the skills of your all-stars to benefit the company.

How can you make sure your analytic resources add value within the organization?  Increasingly we see both our customers and teams internal to SAS using an Analytics Center of Expertise (COE) to drive value.

What is an analytics COE? According to Achieving Analytics Expertise: Organizing the Analytics Center of Expertise by Jane Griffin at Deloitte,  “An analytics center of expertise brings together a community of highly skilled analysts and supporting functions to engage in complex problem solving vis-à-vis analytics challenges facing the organization.”

If that sounds like a great concept but you aren't sure how to get started, I have some advice. When building your own analytics center of expertise, be sure to address these seven areas: business strategy, operating strategy, technology strategy, cultural approach, people, best practices and return on investment. Let's look at each one separately.

Business Strategy

In terms of the business strategy, a key consideration is around products and services. What products and services will be offered by the analytic COE? Will the services be on-site or hosted? When developing offerings, you must also consider customers and their needs. Internal and external customers must be identified. Once identified, how are customers engaged and how does delivery happen?

Operating Strategy

As part of the operating strategy, the team will have to consider information governance processes and put into practice standards and best practices. These may include: model management, repeatable projects, and an integrated environment for sharing and collaboration.

Technology Strategy

Technology strategy involves the data, tools, and deployment. Access to relevant data has to be provided to the COE resources. Once that data is provided, the resources have to have a toolset that allows them to work with the data. As the COE analyzes data, the deployment of those results is crucial.


The people that work in the COE are the most important resource. (These are your all-stars!) The skills these experts bring to the table are paramount to the success of the team. Included in this skill set should be the ability to understand the business. It’s one thing to have resources that can code a job – it’s a greater challenge to find resources that can evaluate a business issue and deliver value related to that issue.

Key to the skills on this team is a commitment to ongoing training and development. It’s very easy to stay locked into the same knowledge and skill areas. Training on new areas such as big data, high-performance analytics and visualization are required to stay relevant.


The culture of your organization will establish the environment that allows the COE to succeed. The people, data, and information must be viewed and treated as strategic assets. If resources are encouraged and rewarded for learning, then continuous improvement and relevance become achievable.

Best Practices

What do we see successful organizations doing? Investing in training to keep analysts current is something we see our own customers doing and something we do internally at SAS. One way this training can take place internally is through mentoring. Teaming up junior-level hires with senior-level resources is a great mechanism to do so. In fact many times more established analysts will find themselves learning and considering options they may not have previously. Related to the positive idea that ‘failure’ is ok, reward experimentation—provide permission to fail. Where would analytics be without attempts that may not have had the desired outcome?!  When success is achieved reward value creation and advertise the impact!

Return on Investment

As with any business function, the analytic COE will have to confirm its value. Typically, analytical projects lend themselves to a quantitative measure of impact. The increase or improvement in business processes examined in analytic projects is a very direct assessment of value delivered. For example, "If we see ‘x’ increase in marketing response we expect ‘y’ increase in dollars." There are multiple ways to assess the ROI of the COE.

With analytic all-stars as a part of a well-built analytic COE, both external customers and internal teams can better drive value for the business.  Proper strategies, culture, and people combine to form a COE that handles complex analytical problem solving with cutting edge approaches.

Get more tips in this Centers of Excellence 101 webinar.


About Author

Patrick Maher

Senior Manager, U.S. Professional Services

Patrick is a Senior Manager at SAS where he leads the U.S. Business Analytics practice. The practice’s analytical consultants are responsible for data mining, forecasting and predictive modeling solutions across a wide range of industries. Pat has over 20 years of experience in the areas of statistical analysis and predictive modeling. In prior roles he has served in Sales and Marketing at SAS, an analyst in the CPG industry and a project coordinator in health care research.

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