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Money-Making Analytics (Part 4): Why Collaboration is the Critical Success Factor

How to drive collaboration and training on your money-making analytics project. Now that you’ve finalized strategy, selected technology, and designed your analytics to be action oriented and simple, this final step will help you set the right cadence and collaboration across the organization.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” -- Henry Ford

Henry Ford’s words highlight the importance of working together. As much as technologists would like to ignore it, success of an analytics program depends on company culture, the human element, communication, collaboration, and training. We don’t talk much about these success factors enough, yet they are critical to realizing value from analytics.

An article I wrote a couple of years ago talks about the importance of communication, internal marketing, and training for an analytics program. This is a good starter read if you are beginning an analytics program from scratch. If you have an analytics program in place but are now getting into money-making analytics, in this article I’ll explain the need for improved collaboration and communication and how you can use them effectively in your own organization.

Earlier in this series we explained how to ask the right questions, identify and prioritize the money-making analytics, identify the right technology toolsets to use, and design the analytics and the decision-making framework. To be successful in those tasks, you need human collaboration. Indeed, collaboration isn’t the fifth step -- it’s the approach you need to take for all the steps we’ve discussed in this series. The emphasis on collaboration increases ten-fold as you create and rollout the tools through the organization. Now you need to focus on setting the cadence of analytic review and action across the organization, including the right people from all levels and departments.

Your review and action cadence begins with the very same people and groups who participated in your initial discussions and helped you set priorities. This closes the loop on the challenges and opportunities identified at the very beginning of the process. Now we get to solve the challenges!

Here is a suggested framework on forums you could put together to create the review and action cadence and improve collaboration across your stakeholder groups and departments. Start with a weekly review and then reduce the frequency once you are confident the organization is collaborating on its own.

The Executive Forum: Once your key analytics are identified and developed, you need a forum where the exceptions identified from the analytics are discussed and acted upon. By exceptions, I mean the unusual cases and problem areas highlighted in your analytics. For example, if the high=level goal of the analytics tool is to help reduce inventory, the analytic tool should highlight exactly which products, locations, and business units are struggling with inventory management. Furthermore, the tool should suggest specific action such as as in “Reduce inventory for product A, consider discounted sale through a low-priced retailer.” It should show other relevant information so your decision making can be swift. In this, information such as “50 percent of product A in location X is expected to be out of date by end of the quarter.” By combining the relevant pieces of data together, you are now enabling discussion and action in the review forum.

Also, consider a multi-layered approach, starting right from the C-level executives where high-level trends are reviewed, then highlighted exceptions are discussed and acted upon. Anything that cannot be decided or resolved in this forum and needs further analysis and input is sent to either the strategy forum or the operational forum. In our example, if we didn’t have the information about the product’s obsolescence, the decision from the executive team might very well be an action item for the operational team to select the right product and the right location to reduce inventory.

The Strategy Forum: The C-1 level team acts upon the strategic items identified from the executive forum or from their own analysis and exceptions. Remember the money-making analytics tools will diagnose exceptions and prescribe actions at every level of the organization. Most decisions and actions will need cross-functional discussions and offline analysis.

For example, the executive forum might review product sales analytics and determine that product revenue from new innovation is very low if the company is not keeping up with introducing the right kind of products in the market. The executive team could then create an action item for the strategy forum to look at the innovation pipeline recommend new markets and products to explore. This is not an immediate action item but a long-term one.

The Operational Forum: Typically this team is made up of C-1 or C-2 level teams with responsibility for operations. They act on the operational items identified by the executive or strategy forums or by themselves. Creating these two types of action forums (i.e., strategy and operations) automatically gives the company a long-range plan team and an immediate-action team. Depending on the culture of your company, these forums can be combined. The focus needs to be on continued collaboration and communication across the business functions and across each of these forums. Specific action items and follow-ups must be conducted and brought back to these forums for closure.

Business Users: Collaboration with the “nuts-and-bolts crew” -- the everyday business users who work with money-making analytics -- is typically more ad hoc and on an as-needed basis. The basic premise of creating the right analytics tools is to minimize the effort needed by business users in everyday decision making. By putting in the right analytics logic within the tools, users’ actions will become a byproduct of the consumption of the analytics tools and not a separate effort.

The review cadence and the active collaboration across the company creates an action-oriented rhythm across the organization and across business functions, which is often a “must”. Over time, as the members of all teams are trained in and become in sync with the cadence, action from analytics becomes second nature. This may take up to a year until that cadence becomes just another aspect of your company’s culture.

A Final Word

Communication across the organization is critical as well. Consider requiring regular training, newsletters, group forums, and one-on-one sessions in the first 6-12 months after launching your money-making analytics program. Such programs are typically major transformations, so be patient as your organization finds its own natural rhythm. Over-communicating is always better than under-communicating because the human element is what makes such initiatives successful!

In review, here are the four steps that we’ve discussed in this series. Careful consideration of all these steps will definitely help you realize the most benefit from your money-making analytics. Happy money-making!

Step 1: Soul Searching and Analytics Strategy Selection
Step 2: Evaluating the Technology and Tools
Step 3: Choosing an Action-Oriented Decision-Making Framework
Step 4: Why Collaboration is the Critical Success Factor

About the Author

Shikha Verma is senior vice president at Diyotta, a data integration company. She is a data and analytics strategist, leader, and advisor to several companies in Silicon Valley. In her career, Verma has helped several Fortune 500 companies realize multi-million-dollar value from monetizing their data and deploying the right analytics. You can contact the author at shikha@diyotta.com or at https://www.linkedin.com/in/shikhaverma.


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