Why is it that we have so much difficulty getting a data strategy to embed in an organisation? Why do we struggle with commitment for programs of data work that sometimes span many budget cycles? Why are the expectations of what a business intelligence and analytics initiative will deliver so often misaligned with the expectation of its stakeholders?
Every organisation has information, data analytics or knowing their customer as one of the key pillars of their group strategy. It is talked about as a key priority for organisations and a hot topic across C-levels from CEOs to CIOs to CMOs. We hear so much talk about how much we need to do with data and analytics yet despite the effort we put into our data strategies and programs they often fail to resonate the way we would like them to.
Data and analytics has come of age and there is a lot of maturity in both the formation of strategy, the structure of analytics in organisations and the delivery and execution of business intelligence programs. Embedding an analytics strategy into an organisation doesn’t fail because we don’t know what to do or how to execute it. It often fails to resonate because we fail to create a story that is meaningful in the organisation and is able to maintain the interest long enough for capability build to a critical mass. There is nothing more disheartening in a major analytics initiative to almost reaching that tipping point when you have enough data and capability to really turn the dial only to find that is the point that funding is reduced or head count is lost.
Embedding an analytics strategy into an organisation doesn’t fail because we don’t know what to do or how to execute it. It often fails to resonate because we fail to create a story that is meaningful.
There are a few ways to approach our strategies that create better alignment and embed them better in our organisations:
1. The focus of our data and analytics strategies used to be about what we do to the data – how we are going to store it, how we are going to move it and so on. That has to change. We have to focus on what we are going to do with the data. What capabilities will we unlock, what will we deliver for end customers using smart analytics, what tangible outcomes will our stakeholders get out of the program.
2. We need to make the strategy and program engaging for our stakeholders. This means we need to bring analytics to life through storytelling and visualisation. The strategy needs to be clear and aligned really transparently to business strategy and objectives. It needs to be compelling in the way it demonstrates how analytics will drive to business outcomes and achieve business strategy. Embed industry case studies and tangible results to show the outcomes that can be expected from the initiative. Make it real.
3. Large capability build programs can be lengthy and require long-term commitment. The strategy needs to allow for incremental release of business benefits and corresponding stakeholder engagement points. Ongoing engagement throughout the initiative is also vital. This is normal for any large program of work but as data and analytics people we often forget to focus on this part.
4. Technology is a vital enabler to analytics but don’t let the strategy get caught up in the data technology. In any large BI program, we will see the available technology and the data technology capability change multiple times during the life of the program. The strategy needs to be flexible enough to adapt to the needs of its stakeholders and ability of available technology to get the best outcomes throughout its life.
Provided you follow an outside in approach to designing your analytics strategy then it will get greater traction, garner more commitment and have a longer life span.
By Greg Nichelsen:
Greg Nichelsen is the Executive Manager, Customer Analytics at Suncorp Group. Greg leads the development of the group customer data and analytics strategy to achieve customer outcomes through data driven customer experiences. Greg is speaking at The Chief Analytics Officer Forum in Sydney on 5-6 April 2016.