Recent changes to privacy regulations have highlighted that the need for Marketers to continue to encourage their organizations to collect and analyze their own first-party data has never been more important. And yet, while organizations are collecting more data than ever before, and making significant investments in big data and analytics, many continue to struggle with using their data to get real results.
Overcoming this challenge means that employees and business leaders alike, especially those involved in data, need to shift their mindsets. We believe that data analysts need to be able to think more like business consultants when it comes to interpreting and communicating the results of their analyses, and that business leaders need to support their analysts’ efforts by providing them with more information than just the numbers themselves.
Let’s take a look at how you, as a business leader, can leverage the power of the data analyst to better position yourself to make stronger, more effective decisions.
Why are organizations struggling to leverage their data?
Organizations are investing significantly in data capture, but they are failing when it comes to investing in analytics and acting on their data. To better understand why so many are struggling to use data effectively, it’s important to take a step back and assess how data is currently being used in decision making across the organization.
Are you respectful of the recommendations that are being brought forward by the analytics team or are you continuing to rely on gut feel? Are you providing your analysts with all of the information and context they need to do a proper analysis? Or are you keeping them in the dark?
In most organizations the lack of action taken on data insights is most often not attributed to a shortage of technical skills. Data analysts and data scientists are extremely strong when it comes to their technical prowess, often learning a variety of tools and systems unique to their given role. However, despite their technical strength, they usually lack the consultative skills needed for interpreting, communicating and using analytics to better benefit their organizations/clients.
What access to information do consultants have that analysts don’t?
Business consultants are often given open access to senior level leaders within an organization to interview and get a more fulsome picture of the problems they are facing, and which of those problems are common to a certain industry (for example). In addition to having access to these senior-level conversations, consultants also have the opportunity to speak with front-line individuals to gain a better understanding of the data collection process and pain points within.
Analysts are often not given the opportunity to have any of these conversations, and as such are inadvertently given blindspots in their analysis because they are lacking key pieces of information such as the vision of the organization or what data the stakeholders wish they had to work with.
It is critical that analysts have an understanding of the competitive landscape a business competes in, including how the different business units can leverage the variety of data points and to varying degrees. Similarly, it is also important that the business units have a common understanding of what data is available to them and a common set of terminology or language that is used when referencing the data points.
A shift in mindsets – thinking like a business consultant
The opportunity for data analysts to drive greater value is to behave more like a business consultant. Viewing data through the lens of a business consultant means taking a more proactive approach to solving problems, identifying opportunities, and discovering trends. It means understanding the data in the context of the larger business strategy, and it allows data analysts to ask novel questions, explore data in imaginative ways, and understand the results of the analysis from a fresh perspective.
It shifts the thinking away from providing reports and responding to data requests and instead, toward a deeper recognition of how these results impact the organization as a whole.
The challenge for analysts is that many of the skills needed to be a fantastic analyst are vastly different from the skills required to be a great consultant. Data analysts are expected to be well-versed in statistics and mathematics, and adept at coding. They need to understand the technical side of things, and they often communicate with other technically-minded people in their day-to-day work. They also tend to be extremely detail-oriented when conducting their analyses.
These are very different traits than a business consultant.
Communicating like a business consultant
A business consultant needs to be able to see the big picture and how everything fits together in the overall business strategy. They cannot get lost in the technical side of things, and need to be able to clearly communicate the business implications with other non-technical stakeholders. When dealing with analysis, they ask themselves, “What would the decision-makers do with this number? Is it useful? If not, what should we be looking at instead?”
From a consultant’s perspective, it’s not necessarily valuable to explain the technical process behind the analysis. Instead, they must focus on interpreting and communicating the business impact of their results, while positioning such insights in a manner that is both well received and comprehensible to their audience. They tell a story with the data. And stories resonate with people.
Empowering data analysts to behave like consultants
Treat your analysts like business consultants. Your analytics team should not just be viewed as the quantitative people. Give them access to, and encourage them to immerse themselves in the qualitative factors influencing the analysis.
Empower them to form stories out of the data to present options that address challenges or goals based on a deep understanding of the organization’s objectives and strategy.
This means you need to open the door for them to have access to these conversations. Make it part of their onboarding. Add contextual business learnings into their learning path strategy. Periodically include them in senior level meetings, even if only a fly on the wall, so that they can hear first-hand what is important to the organization and how they can leverage the data to support those initiatives.
Getting better results for your organization
With this subtle shift in mindset and approach to the data analysis within the context of the overall business strategy, data analysts will provide more value to organizations. In turn, key internal stakeholders will be able to make stronger and more effective decisions, and take action on the insights provided.
Empower your data analysts to believe in the critical role they play in how your organization uses, interprets, and makes decisions based on the data they collect. Expect that they can go beyond simply running reports and take a more proactive story-telling approach that uncovers previously unknown trends, opportunities, or challenges.
In order to drive real results, organizations need to understand that analysis is more about finding the value behind the rows of data. Analytics is the path to unlocking actionable insights. If you would like to discuss how to get more value from your analysts, talk to Shift Paradigm today.