discussing analytics results as a group
Data analytics deserves a place in every organizational decision. Here's how to bring that perspective into the boardroom PHOTO: Štefan Štefančík on unsplash

A big company just hired you to help with analytics and deliver insights based on data. It seems like the perfect job: Good salary, lots of responsibility, tons of opportunity to put your knowledge and experience to use.

For the first few months, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. You have a menagerie of tools and applications to learn your way around, a host of complicated reports to take over and a plethora of important people to meet.

It isn’t long, however, before some cracks start to appear and you discover that the organization is not as quite as data-driven or as proficient in digital analytics as you thought.

Here are some common signs of a possible disconnect between the promise of a data-driven corporate culture and reality:

  • The company’s website is being redesigned, and you weren’t asked to be involved in the project.
  • The analytics implementation is antiquated, incomplete or incorrect.
  • Changes are made to the company’s site with no input from you.
  • Online ad campaigns are launched without your knowledge.
  • Executives either don’t believe the data or don’t think that it can be helpful.
  • Management views analytics as an administrative cost.
  • Documentation is lacking or nonexistent, and there are few, if any, standard processes in place.
  • People disagree over terms and definitions.
  • There are multiple tools that do the same thing.
  • It’s hard to get funding for projects.

Tips to Bring Digital Analytics Into the Spotlight

The above examples are all potential indications that the value of the digital analytics function is either unknown, unappreciated or not fully understood within at least some parts of your organization.

If that’s the case at your office, what can you do about it?

Brand It

Six years ago, a colleague of mine took a job as an analytics manager at a Fortune 500 computer manufacturer, overseeing a team of two full-time analysts and with a budget of about $1 million. Unfortunately, his already overworked team spent an excessive amount of time fielding ad hoc requests for reports from a small cadre of power users. That left them without enough time to do analysis and deliver insights to the greater organization.

He decided to brand his fledgling team, calling it the Global Business Intelligence (or GBI) group, and proceeded to slap that name everywhere — in his email signature, on his meeting invitations and on the title pages of his presentations. He even ordered custom-printed signs, pens and stress balls with the GBI logo emblazoned on them, and he produced a short video highlighting his team’s capabilities and accomplishments.

Within a year or two, most of the employees in that 50,000-person company had heard of GBI. But more important, data was suddenly de rigueur. My colleague’s budget grew tenfold, his team expanded by a factor of 30 and almost no marketing, sales or ecommerce initiative commenced without someone consulting the GBI group on the numbers.

The moral of this story is you can’t assume that, just because you were hired to do an important job, everyone in the company knows who you are and values what you do. Often, for you and an analytics initiative to be successful, you must market your skills up, down and across your entire organization, in much the same way a brand markets itself to its customers.

In a quick poll of some more of my colleagues who manage analytics teams for large companies, I found a variety of names being used to brand the analytics function internally, including Digital Center of Excellence (DCOE), Corporate Insights Research and Analytics (CIRA), Marketing Analytics and Data Science (MADS) and Audience Science Analytics (ASA).

I would argue that while creating a catchy name for your team is a good start, raising awareness of your analytics capabilities shouldn’t end there. You must do more to get the word out.

Here is a list of additional tips and ideas that I have personally collected from almost 20 years of experience in the business to help you and your analytics team become more effective at evangelizing analytics and the value it can bring to the greater organization.

Take It on the Road

It’s easier to wrap your head around a complex subject when that subject can be explained through practical, real-world examples.

Instead of blasting out some email missives attempting to convey why your analytics team should be involved early in the planning process of every digital initiative, consider putting together a portfolio of live demos and compelling case studies of instances when data delivered results.

Then schedule face-to-face meetings with your stakeholders, department heads and executives to show them — not tell them — how decisions made with data and your analysis are better than decisions made without data and analysis.

Sometimes people must see how something works before they really start to understand it. An internal road show can go a long way toward promoting the power of analytics, building individual trust and raising awareness for both analytics and your team.

Publish a Newsletter

This might seem like a trivial idea, but publishing a newsletter and circulating it internally can help increase your team’s visibility and communicate the benefits of analytics.

In addition to publishing the usual news, stats and group updates, try featuring some of the wins you have had with certain stakeholders. This kills two birds with one stone. First, as with a road show, using a newsletter to publicize practical examples of the business benefits of data and analytics helps educate people about the possibilities. Second, it can help build stronger relationships with the stakeholders you highlight, because almost everyone likes to see their name in print.

I would recommend publishing a newsletter at least once per quarter, if not every month. The more often you get your “brand” out in front of people, the more top of mind you’ll be when analytics should be part of the conversation.

Provide Training and Education

My last suggestion is to offer brief, one-hour or even half-day themed training workshops tailored to various constituents within your organization on a regular basis. For instance, host a seminar on tag management with your IT department that includes not just a demo of the tools you use, but a review of the process you have in place to deploy tags and an explanation of why it is important.

Another example of a great training topic is an intro to analytics course that teaches people how to generate and act on basic insights from your company’s actual data. This is something you could offer to employees in your marketing department.

Here are some other possible training topics:

  • Data visualization 101: How to create reports you can use.
  • How to get the most out of [fill in your analytics tool of choice here].
  • The importance and fundamentals of A/B testing.
  • Telling stories with data.
  • How to really measure campaign performance.

Don’t Just Sit Behind Your Desk

Educating your organization has countless benefits. It positions you as an authority on all things analytics. It increases employees’ overall level of analytics knowledge, which should lead to your stakeholders asking better questions. And it helps people understand why involving your analytics team early and often will ultimately help them make better marketing and business decisions.

In sum, it doesn’t do you or your company any good to sit behind your desk all day and assume that everyone knows who you are, what you do and how you can help. If you want analytics to get the credit it deserves, get off your backside and earn it.

Create a brand for your analytics team, take your successes on the road, constantly communicate value, and educate your colleagues every chance you get. If you do these things, not only will you be more likely to get a seat at the table, but you will also help your company become more data-driven and better able to compete in our increasingly data-driven world.