Analytics leaders play an increasingly important role within today’s businesses as the translators of technology capabilities into real-world business impact. Unfortunately, within most organizations today, the role of analytics isn’t fully understood and, thus, not fully leveraged.
The superpower of today’s analytics leaders is that they’re bilingual: They speak the language of technology, but they’re also fluent in the lingo of year-over-year, quarter-over-quarter business growth. They have a keen sense of what’s technologically possible now as well as where technology is headed in the future, and they also know the levers to pull to drive real growth and ROI within an organization, whether that’s done by refining customer service, driving in-store revenue, introducing promotions, or launching an entirely new product category. For these reasons, it’s increasingly the job of the analytics leader to inform and shape the right data foundation for the entire organization, in partnership with IT stakeholders, the marketing org, and business leaders. Let’s take a look at why it’s imperative for companies to put analytics at the center of their strategy.
The Modern Role of Analytics & Analytics Professionals
Every brand today faces a two-fold challenge: the need to build a robust, complete customer data foundation and the need to make that data easy to use effectively. Ultimately, all the customer data in the world is worthless if you can’t layer on analytics to understand what it all means and make decisions based on those insights.
It’s not always evident who in an organization is supposed to serve as this critical bridge between data and action, as the analytics function can live in multiple departments at various levels. In some companies, these leaders’ roles are obvious thanks to titles like SVP of Analytics or SVP of Data Science & Research. But in other cases, this task falls to people with broader responsibilities in marketing and customer success departments.
No matter where analytics expertise resides, a company’s goal in getting it to where it needs to be should focus on two things: 1) ensuring the people with deep analytics know-how have a seat at the strategy table and 2) empowering them to distribute their knowledge and insights throughout the enterprise. Analytics should live closer to the core of the business, while simultaneously touching more functions and daily decision-making activities.
Teaching an Organization to Fish
There’s a well-worn adage about giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish, which applies to the role of analytics. Analytics leaders in any organization should be teachers, not just providers.
All too often, people approach the analytics department with a question and request an answer. What they fail to do is explain the broader underlying challenges that they’re trying to solve. In turn, the analytics team returns a narrow answer that may not speak to the bigger picture. It’s transactional, rather than holistic, and frankly, a missed opportunity.
Companies need to put their analytics professionals to work not just answering questions, but also guiding future decisions within the company. Analytics professionals aren’t just number crunchers. They’re strategic partners in problem-solving, and it’s incumbent upon today’s corporate leaders to ensure they’re positioned as such.
The best analytics leaders function like data entrepreneurs. They listen to problems, then help other business leaders become the heroes of their own stories through analytics. They create and acquire tools that help answer strategic business questions, and then ensure the right people across the business have the access and expertise needed to put those tools to work in solving future problems.
Good analytics leaders help everyone do their jobs better, and they do this by connecting the dots between technology solutions and business goals. Analytics leaders can take the whole operation to the next level, but only if the organization recognizes the opportunity.