How can we unlock the value buried within our data?
What more can be done with analytics to ensure great insights are unlocked? How can we engage employees to feel empowered to solve great business challenges with data?
It is likely that as an IT leader you’ve heard these questions all too often, there is still a surprising amount of uncertainty around businesses’ analytical capabilities and executives at every level of the business are starting to question this. This is largely due to the lack of good data in order for members of the business to make valuable decisions.
Executives are aware of the promise of analytics, however the right culture and solutions are lacking, which means that good intentions have a tendency to flounder and fail to produce results. Tools which are already in use by the existing data science team are often too complex for those without an advanced understanding of analytical tools.
Despite these common challenges, the promise of analytics has not been oversold. Companies that get it right build sustained advantages and outpace their competition. So how do they do this? What must happen within an organisation to harness the power of its data?
Companies that want to win using analytics must develop a top to bottom enterprise analytics competency. This competency is the organisation’s ability to perform meaningful data analysis by department and by individual in a manner that provides analytic freedom to any employee who wishes to participate. It is the enterprise-wide proliferation of self-service analytic proficiency beyond the Information Technology department or specialised data science teams.
Developing an analytics competency across the enterprise is no small undertaking. It requires a great deal of self-awareness from a broad cross-section of business units and individual employees. The organisation must step outside itself and evaluate how it goes about achieving its mission on a daily basis.
This will be challenging. Some would ask, ‘why not leave analytics to the data scientists?’ It’s because the people who understand the problem should be the ones solving it.
The hardest part of the analytics process is figuring out the right questions to ask. And functional knowledge is required to get at those really meaningful questions. It’s largely ineffective to expect a small analytics team to understand the pressing issues within each department across an organisation.
Yet the experienced analysts in the business reside in the departments, and these are the people who have the functional knowledge of the business and the way it ticks. Understanding so much, they will find that answers lead to new questions, and the hunt for excellence continues.
The surrender of no longer asking questions is one of the biggest fundamental losses within a company when expertise is siloed and people no longer have the understanding on the context of what they’re working on.
Specialised analytics teams don’t scale
No matter how talented data scientists are, there simply aren’t enough of them to support the number of requests that come from across the business. Under traditional models, business analysts get frustrated with long report queues, and data scientists themselves aren’t generating real value when working on requests that don’t require specialisation to solve.
There’s a secret that some might not want the wider business to know. There’s an entire set of analytic tasks that can be offloaded to the line of business. This frees up the data scientists to work on the difficult things they’ve been hired to do, and it gives business analysts the power to ‘fish for themselves’.
There is a legacy belief that analytics are best left to IT personnel or someone with a technical background. This belief persists because early analytics tools were not user-friendly and they required advanced coding knowledge to be of any use. The thought was that people on the business side can’t be trusted with the data because they’re untrained with the tools and analytic methodologies. They don’t know what they’re doing, they don’t understand the output, and they’re going to interpret things the wrong way.
Today’s analytics tools no longer require deep coding knowledge or special skill sets. With a small amount of training, business users can explore the data and search for their own answers, feeling empowered. Trusting them with the data creates liberation, and this will free them up to do the job they were hired to do.
Perhaps most importantly, when front-line staff are trusted and given the tools they need to do their jobs, a culture of engagement is created. The closer people get to their jobs the more engaged they become. The closer they are to being part of the solution, the more value they are going to take from their job.
Recruitment is a top level consideration. Companies are investing in top-tier talent and equipping them with new to succeed, however one vital tool that is missing from their kit is often still analytic power. If talent is isolated from this vital asset, the business side of the organisation will disengage, their curiosity will die and they may move onto greener pastures to find fulfilment elsewhere. Increasingly, people want to solve their own problems.
Put the power back in the hands of the people – empowerment the thrill of solving everyone’s own problems, how they want to, and in the way that best suits them.
About the Author
Chiara Pensato leads marketing for Alteryx International regions, responsible for supporting their exponential growth outside North America by generating demand and driving awareness, through all levers of the marketing mix. Prior to that she spent 15 years in the enterprise tech industry, moving from market leaders (IBM, Hewlett Packard, Vodafone), to IPO stage (Box, and now Alteryx) and start-ups (Topia). Over the years, she designed and ran multi-million marketing programs and enjoyed building teams from the ground up. Her passion for marketing aside, Chiara enjoys running and swimming as often as her schedule allows, reading, live music and travelling around the world. Chiara holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Universita’ Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, Milan.