Business Storytellers – The New Job Title for Analytics Leaders

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Any business leader needs to exhibit a multitude of skills to succeed in their role. These skills need to be a careful mix of technical knowledge and business knowledge. However, in some environments the leader has more technical know-how than business.

When leading an emerging department or discipline a leader needs to strengthen their business skills to get buy-in to their shiny new solution.

I recently had a breakfast with 10 Analytics Leaders in South Africa – 7 practitioners and 3 consultants. The conversation did not centre around the latest developments in statistical models and Hadoop clusters but rather around the business challenges they faced.

A coffee-break discussion around Analytics Leaders needing to be storytellers become a hot topic as everyone regrouped. How does a technical genius communicate his/her insights to business in such a way that buy-in is achieved and maintained?

I recounted a conversation I had with Annie Symington (HOD: Analytics at Multichoice) who told me how she trained her team to use storyboards and infographics to communicate their insights to the rest of the business. She even hired people with these specific skills onto her analytics team – they didn’t come from an actuarial background?!

The participants – or support group members as they became known – shared similar stories of how they had trained their teams to deliver presentations, develop infographics and so on.

Once we’ve implemented a project we need to make it stick. Sustainability of business transformation through insights is a big challenge.

Making it stick. Everyone believed that what made their insights, advice and guidance stick was how well it was communicated to the business. If business doesn’t get it, if they don’t see value, they won’t maintain it.

And if an Analytics Leader wants more FTE and more budget then they better make sure they make things stick. Value is not created in one meeting; it’s created over time by doing the right things consistently well.

So this brings me back to the point about having a dual set of skills – technical and business. Who thinks to send their Data Analyst or Senior Customer Insights Manager to storyboard training? But this type of upskilling must take place to ensure that analytics – and data for that matter – gets the status it deserves in an organisation.

There’s no point having a great story if you have no voice to tell it.

I think the value of an Analytics Leader who can tell a good story is summed up by Jennifer Holt:

A CAO/Head of Analytics unlocks the power of information, bringing lightbulb insight to the forefront to shape strategy and plans. Helping business understand their customers’ needs and then delivering products and services that speak to those needs.

This topic was just one of many big challenges that were discussed at the breakfast. I’ll write a post summing up the other challenges but this one stood out most to me. And in the next few months, Corinium will release a research report on the Analytics Market in the Middle East and Africa. Stay tuned for that.

By Craig Steward:

Craig Steward is the Content Director for Corinium’s CDO and CAO Forums in Africa. His research is uncovering the challenges and opportunities that exist for CDOs and CAOs and the Forums will bring the market together to map the way forward for these important roles. For more information contact Craig on [email protected]

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