If you have a vision of how your data analytics should function, should drive business and should be valued, but you haven’t mastered the art of communicating your vision to the rest of the organization, then chances are that no one sees the value. One of the key challenges for leaders of data analytics teams is in moving the organization to not only see the need for investment, but in fully adopting the charter that putting together a data analytics business unit requires if it has any hopes of sustainability.
The first step is undertaking self-scrutiny and asking the hard question of “do I really have a vision?”. Typically, there is no overarching vision and instead, there are roadmaps that take the organization forward to specific points with finite end dates, or worse, take the organization “somewhere” without definition of what that might actually look like. Data analytics leaders need to really focus on putting together a vision that is a framework of how data analytics will benefit the organization today, tomorrow and throughout the life of the organization. This charter should outline not only how the data analytics team will gain initial funding, but how it will stay afloat, how it will work across departments and how it will self-evolve and self-govern.
To help data analytics leaders create this vision, here are 3 key recommendations that you need to clarify and articulate to everyone within the organization:
Describe your vision in terms of value it will generate the business and don’t use the words “data analytics” anywhere. Instead, use the business units’ specific language to describe the end result of your data analytics work. For example, instead of talking about a roadmap for measuring customer satisfaction, discuss the fact that if you could identify the last decision made before an e-commerce shopping cart was abandoned or completed, you could more accurately predict the future behaviors of other shoppers and intervene at the right time with those about to abandon the cart to provide an incentive to convert some portion into buyers. This insight may benefit the organization X amount of dollars. Similarly, if you could create a dashboard that identified all of the insurance claims that were not being processed because of inaccurate data entry into fields, this could save the organization Y amount of dollars. Talking in terms of real outcomes instead of discussing the how’s and why’s will increase the likelihood of not just initial funding, but long-term trust.
Be the brand & embody the parrot. Any new vision incites fear of change and fear of the unknown. Be ready to continuously promote the data analytics brand (give the initiative a name, give the team an identity, make T-shirts, do what you have to do!) and don’t stop until everyone in the organization can repeat the vision and recognizes your data analytics leadership initiative. If you can, make everyone part of the data analytics movement and send out helpful articles, podcasts, blogs and quotes so that people not only have ready access to materials, but experience your transparency and willingness to include everyone. Whether people take to this or not is immaterial–your effort will be seen as one of sharing and not building yet another silo.
Create a baseline understanding & expectation of each employee. Many people are scared of data–they see it as involving math or science and didn’t consider themselves strong in these areas. Other individuals see it as something that could expose them or replace them in their jobs. Other individuals have no idea and have never been exposed to it and some people are not very knowledgeable, but very curious to understand how it all works. The point being is that there is a massive range of understanding in the purpose and practice of data analytics.
As a leader, your vision needs to include a baseline expectation for what all employees are expected to understand (and a plan to get them to baseline if they aren’t) as well as an ongoing expectation of data analytics knowledge required for every new employee (whether that is a pre-requisite or part of the onboarding process depends on the organization). Being clear in expectations and including definitions of baseline understanding of data analytics as a fundamental in your vision is imperative because goes to the heart of the organization’s culture.
A culture that embraces data analytics is one that is guided by the scientific method of hypothesizing, testing and reporting in a continuous manner. One thing that data analytics leaders need to realize in charting the vision for your initiative is how much is this in alignment with the current culture of the organization. If the current culture is emotional, decisions are made based on personal reasons or gut reactions, then buy-in for your data analytics vision may be initially achieved, but the prognosis for long-term adoption is bleak.
Lastly, data analytics leaders should look to form relationships with trusted partners and connect with similar people in other organizations who are spearheading analytics initiatives in order to put together a support network of change. Adopting these recommendations will aid data analytics leaders in starting off on the right foot and setting yourself (and your organization) up for success.