Turbulence in Analytics

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Analytics and Big Data are two words that have become very popular now. Black gold and Texas Tea being few of the words used to describe the riches that can be attained from data. In fact, data scientist has been quoted as one of the sexiest career titles of the 21st century. And yet it is hard to find a superman or woman who is the ’god of all things for analytics’. But is analytics over hyped? Is there more talk and less action on the ground?

If once, the most valuable secret formula in American business was Coca-Cola, today it is Google’s master algorithm. Thanks to the hype generated by Big Data, organizations have bought into the concept; but many are still unsure how to ’make it happen’ for them.

If you are a company thinking about either starting out in Analytics or scaling up your analytics practices, it may be a good time to think & plan. I have often come across organization which believe that investing in top-end statistical resources and buying high-end technology is enough to extract value from analytics. The truth is vastly different.

It takes time to build analytical maturity in a company. And it takes a certain unique mix of people to drive the desired results. While Banking has attained greater maturity in the use of analytics, FMCG companies are yet to make great strides. My experience across retail and banking sectors has taught me that it is best to start small; very small!

A lot of analytics can be done on an excel sheet and does not require a PhD in statistics. The simpler the analysis, the lesser is the barrier in implementing the call for action that emanates from it. What is needed is that companies must choose areas where their analytics work can have maximum impact.

So what should be a CXO’s Analytics agenda for 2015?

Bring analytics into the mainstream board discussions: Information can be a strategic advantage for companies. But how many Board members are actually asking these questions? As they say: You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Customer data is a valuable asset. Why not treat it that way? The value is not in rewarding regular purchases but in capturing information from every purchase, which builds a proprietary customer profile.
As companies look at analytics to give them a competitive edge, they need to make key changes in their information technology, their structure, their processes, and their culture. Culture is absolutely critical to analytics adoption. Albeit you don’t often hear about a close partnership with human resource department for analytics adoption, it is critical for culture change to start. Some companies have the existing culture to support this, but for many others it has to be built grounds-up.

Create a career ladder for analysts: Companies often neglect to career ladder the analytics group. They are often seen a specialist support function. And that automatically limits their career growth possibilities. Companies need to overcome this neglect and churn the most out of this critical workforce.
Analytics needs social support: Analytics doesn’t need you to solve a technical problem but a social one. Therefore, it’s imperative to simplify analytics for business users. Embed analytics into the fabric of the company. Start with a decision in mind and work backwards — and not with the data in mind and working forward. Remember, stories are the best way to influence.

Change management: By 2017, CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO. Build a core competency in driving change management across structure, systems and process. Consider creating a new role within marketing called the Chief Marketing Technology Officer (CMTO) to drive this change.

Forge a partnership ecosystem: The single largest reason why you should consider taking on an analytics partner is actually ‘speed to market’ and ‘speed to impact’. Companies, however, should be careful about the kind of partner they choose. Do they just want to outsource a process or are they keen to bring in consulting experience for the change management is a question one must consider.

Link analytics to the last mile: Analytics is not a planning tool as much as it is an execution tool.
Analytics should not be expected to deliver an ‘Aha moment’. Instead, it is a factory approach to improved decisions.

Analytics practitioners have a role to play as “change agents” if they want Analytics to still exist as a profession a decade from now. They cannot sit back as passive observers watching the slow pace of analytics adoption in companies.

Otherwise you may have a case of the fictional Cybernetic revolt or robot uprising — a scenario in which an artificial intelligence decides that analysts are a threat (either to the machines or to themselves), are inferior, or are oppressors and try to destroy or enslave them, potentially leading to machine rule! I believe analysts have better sense than to let this happen!

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Neeta Nair

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