The emerging role of the analyst…

6 10 2011

A few days ago, I wrote about the analyst function being dead, which spurred conversations about the emergence of a new breed of analysts. Organizations, with all of their investment in data capture, data generation, and business intelligence, still struggle to use data effectively to make decisions. With the explosion of data over the last couple of decades, the analyst moved away from business and morphed into an IT role.  The role became more about writing business requirements and providing reports than understanding data and helping the organization digest meaning from it.

Now the analyst needs to move back to a business role, but with more of a mathematics and statistics background.  They have to be curious about improving the business and have the acumen to do it.  They need to know how to blend traditional data with today’s non-traditional data feeds from blogs, social media, video, etc.  The value of the analyst is back in creating business value through relevance, context, and timeliness.

To achieve this, the emerging role of the analyst requires a new skill set and must:

  • Understand how to derive information out of data and present it in business terms – this is perhaps the most important of all of the new skills.  The analyst must be able to take a tremendous amount of information and coalesce that information into business terms leading to action.
  • Integrate various types of information – as data is coming from all different places and in new forms, it is increasingly important to understand how and when to leverage potentially rich data, and decipher what is irrelevant quickly.
  • Design problems with various concepts – the analyst needs a consultative style in which different models are applied to solve ever more complex issues.
  • Use technology – with Business Intelligence, Planning, and Predictive Analytic style software becoming easier to use, the analyst needs to know not only how to use these tools, but when to use them.
  • Delegate – traditionally the analyst needed to do everything.  Now as technology, data sources, and businesses have become more diverse, the analyst needs to know how to farm out some of the analytics to specific expertise at the right time, guide the project, and integrate the results.

The analyst also needs to transform informational projects into a process where requests for information are appropriately managed. This includes breaking down information into four areas: persistent information or basic reporting of facts on a regular timeframe; performance measures that have higher level KPIs; problem analysis; and data exploration.

Gone are the days where the analyst was a report writer, spending too much time on data acquisition.  They must now know how to enhance data to get more out of it in a timely and fashion and present that back to the business in a manner that drives value creation.





Analytics Blogarama

29 09 2011

You’re invited to join in the Analytics Blogarama!

Theme: The Emerging Role of the Analyst
When: October 6
Where to post: Your own blog
Who’s invited: All bloggers with an interest in analytics
How to get in on the link promotion friendliness: Send an email with title and url of your post to cliff@socialmediatoday.com.

Analytics bloggers Michael Ensley and Meta S. Brown invite you to join us for the very first Analytics Blogarama – one day when we share our individual views on a common theme. Smart Data Collective will be spreading the word and linking to all participants’ posts. All bloggers with an interest in the theme are welcome to participate, so please share this invitation with your blogging pals.

Why participate? Build your readership! Everybody gets a link from the Analytics Blogarama page. Collaboration among participants (exchange ideas, comment on posts, link to one another) is encouraged!

So, on October 6, post your take on The Emerging Role of the Analyst on your blog. Please include a link to the blogarama navigation page, so your readers can find their way to other viewpoints. And send an email with title and url of your post to cliff@socialmediatoday.com, so your post can be listed there, too!

Blogarama navigation page url: http://smartdatacollective.com/40832/analytics-blogarama-october-6-2011





Why strategy needs to be specific…

20 09 2011

Today’s Dilbert strip hit on a couple of key thoughts, albeit in traditional Dilbert fashion…

This is a pretty simplistic, yet sadly realistic, manner in which we define corporate agendas.  We lay out a concept and expect the organization to translate our words into action.  What happens is that often the definition is fuzzy, which allows for all sorts of interpretation and a watering down of execution.

While a little nitpicky here, Increasing Market Share is a goal, not a strategy.  Why does this matter?  The primary reason is that we need to teach the organization to think along common lines. We need to communicate specificity – tell people exactly what we want.  The goal is to increase market share by 5%, and we are going to do this by increasing new product revenues by 10% and by $4mil in cross selling opportunities to our customer base.

Additionally, every company is striving for the same four things – Increase Revenues, Improve Profit Margin, Elevate Market Share, and Enhance Financial Health.  It is how we balance these four items that sets us apart from our competition, and how we tell the organization what matters.  Will we sacrifice a launch date and potentially our 3rd quarter revenue goal if a product is offline?  Will we bend over backwards to keep a customer from defecting?  Will we sacrifice margin for a new customer in a new market?  The company must know the trade off equation as most decisions impact something else.  Without understanding this, people make decisions based on what they want, not what the company wants.

Ask yourself how deep your organization understands its goals?  And then compare it to how specific the goals, strategies, and tactics are for the organization? If there is a gap, start somewhere and be very specific of what you want.  Changing the culture to be more specific is not all that difficult.





The analyst function is dead

8 09 2011

The role of the operational analyst has moved from the business into both Finance and into IT.  The Finance team typically focuses only upon the financial outcomes of the business and has left the operational side of the business to the IT team.

Here is a conversation a client of mine recently had with their analyst…

ANALYST: ” Here is the report on units sold this year.”

BUSINESS:  “What happened here?”

ANALYST:  “That is a spike in the data.”

BUSINESS:  “Right.  But what happened?”

ANALYST:  “That is what the data is showing.”

Sadly, this is not uncommon in the business world today.  Billions of dollars are spent every year on Business Intelligence software to help us visualize what is happening within the business, yet we are really no better off in terms of insight.

WHY is this happening?

  1. The biggest reason why this is happening is we have changed the role of the analyst.  It used to be a marketing person looking at marketing data, or operations looking at manufacturing information.  We have now moved that role to IT, or IT has promised that that can do it better with their understanding of data structures.
  2. We have wrongly assumed that a picture is worth a thousand words.  In BI terms, a chart is worth a handful of questions. IT can not predict that next series of questions and is then left to prioritize what questions to tackle next.
  3. The pace of business, or at least the pace and variety of business questions (like the data we collect) has risen exponentially and scaled faster than our ability to respond.
  4. IT is over burdened and lacks the political power and will to say “no.”  They are in complete reaction mode and lack the resources to cover the demand.

WHAT can we do to fix this?

  • First off, we need to understand the analytical gap within the organization.  IT can manage the data and needs to partner with the business, but the business needs to own the intelligence.  It is easier to teach the business a little about technology, than teach the IT resources about the business.  The business side needs to find that type of person who understands a little about technology, but has a solid mathematical or statistical mind with a curiosity about improving the business.
  • The organization needs to find a better way to integrate better analysis back into the management process.  We need to give the analysts a frame of reference in which to explore ideas and present results.  Some of this will follow reporting upon weekly/monthly operational outcomes, while most will likely by ad-hoc hypothesis or what-if scenarios about some aspect of the business.
  • The culture has to reward critical thinking.  This is not true in most corporate cultures.  All to often, the analyst is criticized for not “going along” with the current belief.  If the culture does not reward new thinking, then the analysis will quickly fall in line with visualizations that support the status quo.
  • Invest in tools and training beyond just the core cubes and reports of the BI market.  While a good portion of analysis can be done with Microsoft Excel and a data dump, the more we want out of our analysts, the more we need to give them.  We need them to look at market baskets, threshold containment, frequency curves, optimization models, assumption testing, correlations, and many other types of analytical tools.

 





When More is much, much Less

2 08 2011

Recently I was cleaning up my Gmail inbox and it was clear to me that some people treat email like free marketing.  For example, Dick’s Sporting Goods was sending me 3-4 emails a week.  While I shop at Dick’s Sporting Goods and like the brand, it was very clear to me that they really weren’t paying attention.  My lack of response, nor opening of any emails should have been a trigger to them.  More was much, much less.  They were not alone, but one of the worst examples of over-communication.

Thoughts for email marketing:

  • Use the information effectively.  Not only have I asked them to stop emailing me all together, they have hurt their brand standing with me.
  • Test your campaigns.  Because they are free doesn’t mean everyone should get everything.  That’s just laziness.  There are too many tools out there not to be able to do some type of segmentation based upon gender, usage patterns, social, and economic demographics.
  • Learn! This is probably the most important aspect.  If a customer gives you their email address, then treat it like a valuable asset and learn from it.  It is not a resource to be used up.  Offer different things at different times, send emails in different patterns, send different offers and test the response.  And if they don’t respond to anything, pull back and wait.

I know this sounds way too obvious, but here is an example from someone with the size and clout to know better.  Chances are your marketing organization is overusing their free marketing channel and just don’t know it yet.  Go ask them for an analysis of how many emails are being sent out to each customer segment each week.  Ask them how often they clean up their contact list to trim out people who have never responded. And wait for the dreaded, “we don’t want to skip anyone in case this is the campaign that will get their attention.”  Trust me, there is a breaking point.





Strategy & Operational Performance Management Survey

21 07 2011

If you have a moment, take a few seconds to fill out a survey.  I’ll post some of the more relevant survey results here over time. Basically 7 questions and a place to fill in your answer if you want to share more.

Link to survey





The enemy of my enemy is my friend

19 07 2011

Strange what a few years means to the technology sector.  Google, once champion of the little guy, the individual, the anti-Mircosoft, now becomes the problem.  The Michigan – Ohio State rivalry of the tech industry was supposed to be Apple and Microsoft.  They have spanned great battles over the years – and better commercials…

Yet, all of a sudden Google is the evil invader in the space.  What else could make Apple and Microsoft consortium partners?

WHAT!!  Wait a second…

Nortel Networks, one of the great patent holders, is watching its power, influence, and ultimately its profits dwindle away.  Up for auction were a sizable number of its patents.  While Google was the early favorite, Apple and Microsoft teamed up with Ericsson, EMC, RIM, and Sony teamed up with each other to outspend Google.

While we get to wait and see what this means for Google, we can wonder what our competition might be willing to do to us given the opportunity?

  • How do external opportunities trigger discussions within the organization?
  • Who monitors the external market for us?
  • How do we leverage information to make timely decisions?
  • How well do we gamemanship our competition?  Are they better at it than us?

 








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.