Analytics is at the top of almost every company’s investment agenda today. However, as I discussed in my previous article, even with this special attention, the success rates of analytics projects are quite disturbing. While there are several reasons for failure of analytics projects, four common mistakes organizations make are:
- Lack of alignment with business problems
- Lack of leadership involvement
- Little or no collaboration
- Lack of empathy for the end-user
At the outset these mistakes may seem too obvious to have been ignored. However, most of it is easier said than done. While it is common for consultants to suggest having a clear analytics strategy and roadmap before building a solution, companies still struggle to implement this advice. Course5 believes that effective management of people, process and technology is the key to a successful analytics implementation. We help businesses create their analytics strategy and roadmap in a way that defines their current state, where they would like to be, and how they can get there. The guiding principles of our Course5’s approach are – Collaborate, Plan, and most importantly, Drive Adoption. The following framework shows this layered approach:
Course5’s Framework for Successful Analytics Implementation
Leadership involvement is an important aspect of our approach. Senior leadership can provide perspective on the overall business vision. When they oversee analytics projects, they help keep analytics program outcomes aligned with this vision and ensure that the business is investing in the right direction.
In our experience, most business stakeholders today have an appreciation for what data and analytics can do for them. However, their biggest challenge is in closing the gap between business needs and insight needs. Even when analytics teams proactively ask business teams about their goals to map them to insight needs or ask how they could help them, they often receive vague, ’whole wide universe’ answers that are not helpful at all.
At Course5, we think of analytics teams as having an internal sales role, as partners in their stakeholders’ success rather than just providers of data or insights.
As analysts, a consultative, partnership mindset is key to building trust with business stakeholders. Sometimes joining colleagues for coffee – either in-store or even remotely via video conference – can help create a relationship built on mutual understanding and empathy due to better communication. If we ask people what their problems are in formal meetings, we may not get the best answers. Informal conversations can provide a decent place to start because these can help identify the problems that are top of mind. Some questions that could help you make the most of conversations are:
- What is a typical day in your life?
- What are your daily activities, deliverables and KPIs?
- Which tools do you use during your workday? Do you think it could be improved?
- What kind of data and information do you need for making decisions?
- How much time in your day to you spend to draw insights from your data?
- What do you miss or what would you really like to have?
One can then have follow-up discussions to refine requests to specific, solvable problems. To aid these discussions, at Course5 we use an assessment and recommendation framework we call Phase 0 to unpack insight gaps and needs. Here we adopt an ’Insights Funnel’ approach, to drill down and check if there is an insight gap. These insights could be factual, causal, predictive, or prescriptive in nature. From there on we start defining the specific use cases we can solve.
Once we have a list of specific use cases, we can go on to articulate the business value of the use cases with well-defined scope and desired outcomes and then prioritize them based on impact, technical complexity and organizational considerations.
When it comes to technology, I like to say that the best tool used without a plan is not as good as an average tool supported by a well-regarded plan with broad alignment.
One can obviously not move from the “as-is” situation to the future state overnight. Course5 suggests the creation of a maturity model in which the “Current” and the “Desired” state are situated at opposite ends of the spectrum with a number of intermediate levels or milestones in between depending on the overall timeline. The first milestone involves for the most important and/ or urgent deliverables and activities. Consider each milestone as a sub-project to be executed as part of the overall analytics program. For each sub-project, analysts must clearly establish a project plan with a detailed work breakdown structure that is well-considered and ready to be executed.
This is the most crucial aspect of our approach to ensure successful implementation. Change is not easy! More often than not, employees are going to resist any change in the way they were used to working. While leaders can communicate to users why the change will be worthwhile to them, it will take a more than that to motivate users to adopt new ways of working. Here are some ways to encourage adoption:
- Change Agents: Involve the end-user right from the planning phase of the project. This will not just help gain perspective on their daily activities and challenges but may also convert them into your change agents who can market the benefits of an upcoming solution.
- Internal Marketing Campaigns: Create a buzz about the upcoming project. Start advertising your initiative early, create a go-to-market strategy, conduct roadshows and launch events.
- End-user Training: Even the most intuitive technology has a learning curve. End-user training programs, self-help documentation and user helplines can be an effective way to increase the speed of adoption. And training programs are not “one and done” initiatives. They require frequent refreshing.
- Reward and Incentive Program: Lynn Vojvodich1, Chief Marketing Officer at Salesforce, recommends using incentives and rewards liberally to motivate employees to get with the program. Salesforce customers have boosted adoption levels using point-based rewards programs, team competitions and even gamification.
Course5 uses a combination of these principles to help design successful analytics strategies and roadmaps for our clients. As part of our strategic partnership with leading hi-tech products manufacturer since 2014, we have been driving a long-term Analytics journey for their U.S. and India businesses. Using the principles mentioned in this article, we helped the client implement successful projects from the data foundation phase (in 2014) to a prescriptive and predictive solutions phase (2019 and onwards). Over the years, Course5 has helped the client save over USD $100Mn through cost efficiencies and helped generate approximately USD $2Bn in revenue through various customer and marketing analytics programs.
In our experience, successful analytics programs begin with an end in mind, focus on collaboration and drive adoption. If you have made a few mistakes, don’t let them get you down. Bounce back by being methodical and framework-driven and you will be well on your way toward setting your analytics program right.
Are there any lessons you learned from your mistakes in driving Analytics projects? What steps did you take to turn failures into success? Do share your thoughts and experiences.