Actionable analytics: 10 key talking points

26 September 2018
Sam Miller, Cognifide & Wendy Tarr, EY
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It’s summer and the Rumpus Room at the Mondrian is filled with Cognifide clients who are nonetheless ready to discuss the digital marketing and experience technology issues of the day. One amongst these conversations was a well-attended session led by Wendy Tarr, Analytics Leader within EY’s Brand, Marketing & Communications function, who asked the question, ‘How can we make analytics truly actionable?’

 

This remains a hot topic and is still a priority in many organisations that we work with. It pays to take a temperature check of the progress being made in this area in the wider market. Some companies are doing this really well and are reaping massive benefits but some, especially incumbents in many industries, are still grappling with the challenge.

 


The promise of big data has been building for years and, more recently, the proliferation of AI and data science are top demands in marketing and technology functions and beyond. It seems everyone is aware of the business value that a competent and effective analytics function can deliver but actually getting to this value remains challenging in many organisational environments and it’s these challenges that this interactive session set out to discuss.

 

Here are the top 10 talking points:

 

1. Data in itself does not inspire action

To borrow from our Unconference blog, actionable analytics don’t just come from data but from the successful alignment of people, process, data and technology. In recent years there has been a big emphasis on making sure that the data and technology elements of this analytics triangle are in place. What follows is the need to have the people, process and organisational alignment to actually deliver value and make the leap from data and reporting to analysis and insights.

 

2. People are just as important as the technology in creating actionable insight

This was a strong feeling in the room. Finding the right talent to turn data into insight is hard and even rarer is…

 

3. Finding data storytellers

This skill is highly valued in organisations as these people can take the outputs of complex analysis, understand the minutiae of the process and turn it into a story.  The wider business can understand it and buy into it and it becomes a value add and a catalyst in success. Finding talent with the right skill sets to sell the analytics functions output to the wider business is hard and competition is fierce.

 

4.   Help your organisation get SMART

A good starting place to get the pull for analytics from the business is to enforce SMART objective setting (if you aren’t doing already). If people need data to prove they are being successful, then they are going to do their best to get it and make sure it’s shared.

 

5. Big data, small result

Analysis paralysis is a thing. Organisations have built up huge data sets yet struggle to deliver value. The advice emanating from Unconference is get to the value quickly; pick one problem and demonstrate how that can be solved with data. Small successes like this are vital in ensuring that teams are aligned around the value of data-driven insights.

 

6. True actionable insight speaks to an organisation’s key pain points and objectives

Another strong theme coming out of this conversation was analysis for its own sake, rather than analysis applied it to an organisation’s most pressing business challenges. This requires analytics that are aligned across an organisation, rather than confined to different business functions, hence, breaking out of functional silos and truly tracking business outcomes As an analytics function matures it needs to demonstrate impact and we’re seeing more discussion in the industry focused on driving business results, including high-value analytics activities such as customer lifetime value, attribution and predictive modelling. The vast majority of organisations are still quite a way from being able to deliver these advanced analytics.

 

7. It shouldn't be who shouts the loudest ...

Or who slices the data to support their own underlying agenda. Value lies in supporting data-driven decision-making to support correct action, even if this leads to discomfort for the status quo. There were anecdotal instances of competing factions misrepresenting data to their own ends or using it as a stick to beat other colleagues down. This can only lead to misunderstanding of the value of analytics.

 

8. Having an evangelist at the top of the organisation is now more crucial than ever

Often C-suite and senior stakeholders accept the need for analytics within their organisations but are not willing to sanction the investment to help their analytics function succeed, or support a data-driven culture, especially when it challenges the status quo. They see analytics more as a binary switch that is either off or on. However, a much more nuanced approach is needed to enhance the maturity and growth of an analytics function, support data-led decision making and allow people to challenge the status quo. Similarly, senior management often don’t give the data-led output sufficient support to ensure it becomes embedded as a functioning part of the culture.

 

9. Top-down sponsorship and bottom-up actions

The mandate for analytics cannot be solely top-down. There needs to be a groundswell of bottom-up actions, at all levels of the organisation, that are given credence by the senior stakeholders.

 

10.  How should an analytics function fit into the organisation?

The ongoing problem of whether a centralised analytics function or several teams distributed across the business is the best approach was discussed. The consensus was, as you can imagine, that it really depends on the organisation and isn't a one size fits all. However, there was agreement on avoiding silos and diluting the impact by spreading the resources too thinly across teams.

 

Turning analytics into action is still a relevant and on-going challenge within many organisations. Big data, data science and AI will undoubtedly become the norm, but this is still a way off for many and Unconference reaffirmed that a great place to start would be an analytics function which produces robust and impactful actionable insight. If you have any questions or want to discuss how Cognifide can help you on your analytics journey, then please get in touch.