Change management for analytics success

Investing in building up the technical side of your data and analytics capabilities is only one piece of the puzzle. To succeed, organizational change is vital.

Business people discuss data charts

In a recent survey conducted by Forbes Insights and EY, 564 executives from around the world were asked about their challenges and successes in implementing and driving value from analytics across their organizations.

One of the key insights was that recognizing the value of analytics at a leadership level is only part of the process. The majority of the best (i.e., the top 10% of analytics-driven organizations identified by the report) all aligned enterprise, departmental and business lines data and analytics groups, while only 13% of the rest (i.e., the remaining 90% of respondents) had set up such governance structures. Three in five leaders from these top organizations also rated change management as “extremely important” in their move to becoming effective analytics-driven organizations – but what does this entail?

The difference between production and consumption of analytics

Insights derived from analytics alone are only useful if they are actionable and lead to value – how they are consumed, rather than merely produced by the organization.

“There’s virtually no process an organization has that the better use of data and analytics can’t impact in some way,” says Chris Mazzei, EY’s Chief Analytics Officer. “It’s going to touch a lot of people. Because of that, those people need to be better consumers of analytics and have an analytics mindset. They’re not going to be building models, and they don’t have to be data scientists. But they have to be able to leverage analytics into the core business processes and functions that they’re running.”

Analytics consumption takes place at two levels: within the organization, insights can help decision-makers understand their markets, product or service positioning and operations; and, individually, analytics can help employees at all levels and locations throughout the enterprise improve their business processes.

As with any transformative initiative, support for data and analytics initiatives needs to come from the top ranks – but this also is not enough on its own. Sometimes it can be hard to persuade staff that these new tools add value, rather than merely adding complexity by producing more insights that can lead to more confusion than action.

This is why a successful data and analytics environment needs employees at all levels to buy into the effort. Technology will help you to produce data – but it takes human beings to consume it in effective ways to deliver the right insights at the right time.

Aligning effectively around analytics

The ability to address change management is a vital component of data and analytics success because it is essential to driving insights into actions across the organization. If the board sees analytics as important but staff on the ground continue to use the old methods, your technological investment could go to waste.

“We’ve seen a lot of clients investing heavily into the insights part, even hiring talented data scientists to be able to drive the insights,” says Sunny Chu, Asia-Pacific Advisory Partner and Analytics Leader based in Singapore. “Then the question is, ‘So what?’ The insights need to be brought into the business process, to grow, optimize or protect the business.”

The role of change management is to help you as an organization – and, importantly, your individual employees – to focus on “the business issues you want solved,” Chu says.

A successful data and analytics initiative “has to start with an analytics-driven culture,” says Mark Smith, general manager of digital and analytics at Fonterra, a multinational dairy company. “We need the organization to demand data in order to make decisions, instead of working with gut instinct or untested assumptions.”

Taking an informal approach to collaboration

Business people discuss data charts

“Talent, and how it gets organized in the company, is a challenge,” says Mazzei. “There are often questions around naming a leader, where that leader sits, who is in the team and how that team interfaces with other parts of the business. This varies organization by organization. There is no one correct answer, and it’s difficult to get right.”

The leading analytics-driven organizations not only have more employees involved in data and analytics, but they are also more informal about involving them, and worry less about segmenting teams. This more informal approach may be the key to success.

Successful data and analytics initiatives require new types of cooperation that often cut across reporting structures or functional responsibilities, an insight that emerged during the Forbes Insights and EY data and analytics advisory board meeting. Existing, formal bureaucracy cannot constrain such cooperation if it is to flourish. Cooperation calls for informal networks – close collaboration between analytics and business teams requires a bond of cooperation and trust.

This is where success can breed success. If people see the positive results analytics are having in driving business objectives – and making their day-to-day working lives more effective and productive – they will learn to value them. But it may take cross-team collaboration and help to get them to that stage. Encouraging analytics advocates to work with other teams to help them succeed with new technologies and tools can be a powerful way to foster an analytics culture.

The keys to analytics success

The successful analytics executive needs to be a renaissance professional, with a keen understanding spanning many disciplines. They need to have intimate knowledge of the business, as well as a willingness to innovate in order to unleash the insights analytics is delivering.

Close to half of the analytics executives in the top 10% category of analytics-driven enterprises focus on creating new revenue streams that will help deliver new products, services and business models. To succeed at this, they actively encourage teamwork and both formal and informal network building through concerted, ongoing change management efforts.


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