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Championing the Analytics Revolution in Your Organization, Part I

By: Aman Garg

The concepts of Business Analytics, Visual Analytics, and Predictive Analytics may be familiar to you and are most likely embedded in your current organizational capabilities today.  However, the capacity to collect, consume, and analyze tremendous volumes of data is a capability many organizations struggle with.  The integration of technology into all operational aspects of a business enables the collection of data at a much more granular level than previously imagined.  The management of this data becomes even more unwieldy once you begin to introduce the unbelievably large amounts of data from the world of social media.  In the face of this deluge of data, two questions your organization has probably asked are: “What should we do with all of this data?” and “How can we turn this data into a competitive advantage for our organization?”

These are challenging questions that are difficult to answer without a solid organizational analytics foundation.  At SEI, when we work with organizations looking to embrace and eventually utilize analytics, the assessment and establishment of this foundation is first and foremost.  A solid organizational analytics foundation helps create a culture that eschews subjectivity and embraces an objective, analytical mindset.  The adoption of this culture enables an organization to build compelling, data driven narratives that help proactively shape decision making processes that drive success.  In part one of this blog we will discuss the critical task of assembling your analytics team.

The Role of Enterprise Analytical Champion

Building a culture that embraces an analytical mindset requires the establishment of roles that serve as advocates for analytical growth.  While all roles are critical, an organization will struggle to successfully integrate analytics into its decision making processes without having someone who understands both the business objectives and analytical feasibility.  This individual bridges the gap between what is required from the business and what is possible to deliver given the organization’s current state.  This is the role of Analytical Champion.

Without this key role in place and empowered, success will be elusive.  The ever increasing amount of data available, without clear context and objectives, makes analytical work overwhelming.  The Analytical Champion integrates business and technology, leveraging keen insight into the analytical needs of the business and subsequently ensuring the final product is both valuable and useful for leadership and the organization as a whole.  Without this role in place an organization runs the risk of completing work that has limited value, or even worse, is based on false assumptions or incorrect interpretations of available data.  Either result leads to ineffective decision making capabilities.

The Analytical Champion role is comprised of equal parts organizational leadership, business process and analysis experience, and a solid understanding of key technologies.  The Champion should be empowered to guide the process while maintaining accountability for the end product.  Traditionally the Analytics Champion is hired from within, as this role ideally leverages pre-existing relationships in order to influence change.  Ask yourself these question: does this role exist in your organization today? If not, who do you see fitting the characteristics described above?

The ‘A’ Team

After choosing your Analytical Champion, the next step is to take stock of the core
analytical competencies within your organization.  Does your organization have resources that currently, or can, act as data stewards?  The data steward role ensures that all data is of high quality, accurate, and accessible to your analytics team. They are typically part of your organization’s existing data governance program, or possibly responsible for the maintenance of your reporting and analytics data marts. It is critical to evaluate the competency of your data analysts, who are charged with extracting value from the data.  Evaluation of competency should be based on analyst’s quantitative and technical expertise, ability to build relationships and deliver a consultative experience, and lastly the extent of their contextual business knowledge.  The level of competency required to ensure success in these roles varies based on the analytical maturity of the organization and the complexity of identified business opportunities.  At SEI, we’ve found that a thorough business analytics maturity assessment can provide critical insight into the current delivery capabilities and opportunities for improvement.  This maturity assessment provides a solid baseline for competency assessment moving forward.

Every Data Point Has a Story To Tell

Now that you have your champion and your data stewards, how do you integrate their analytical insight into the decision making process?  We’ve often see brilliant data analysts and data scientists that lack the ability to effectively communicate findings to their organizational stakeholders.  The true impact of their analytical findings is minimized due to poor storytelling and presentation. However, this can be solved with training that emphasizes the ability to craft a narrative on the value of analytical insights.  Effective training and ability to craft an impactful narrative around the data enables your analytics team to illustrate this value to the organization’s business stakeholders.  Thus, the handoff from analyst to business stakeholder becomes seamless, as the analysis has already been translated into the language of business value.

Realistically, assembling the right people who have a passion for solving problems through data driven analysis is a tremendous challenge that cannot be conquered overnight.  Identifying your organization’s current appetite for analytical insight and setting actionable, achievable expectations are critical first steps towards the adoption of analytical decision making.  However, we know identifying the need for analytical insights and building the right team is only half the battle; leveraging the most effective technology platforms and creating processes to support the team is equally, if not more, critical.  In part two of our blog we’ll discuss how to effectively evaluate the process and technology aspects of your organization in order to ensure that your analytical team can realize continued success.

Aman Garg

Consultant

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