Creating an Analytics Strategy

What is an analytics strategy? It’s a framework for identifying the resources, processes and procedures that help drive your business. Do you need an analytics strategy? Yes. Am I biased? Of course. But the truth is, data is readily available everywhere, and it is a major key to helping a company make better decisions and gain a competitive edge.

Your analytics strategy should be created from the top-down, meaning: Create your strategy first and then acquire the necessary tools to support your vision. Often, I see companies use the technologies and resources already in place to define their strategy. Ideally, the strategy should drive the business requirements and processes – not vice versa.

All companies have data available to them, at varying degrees. And an analytics strategy is necessary for any business to make smarter decisions for future growth and prosperity.

If your organization is looking to alter its strategic approach and leverage your own data to make more informed decisions, here are a few basic steps to support you in your journey to create an analytics strategy:

What are your organization’s goals?

How can you effectively measure success without knowing what you’re trying to improve? The first step in a sound analytics strategy is identifying what exactly it is you’re trying to achieve.

Are you trying to build brand awareness? Improve NPS? Increase sales of a certain product? Beat out the competition on a given key performance indicator (KPI)? Any and all of these can be organizational goals which are supported by an analytics strategy.

I had a direct report a few years ago who challenged me on one of our first days working together. I said, “Hey, can you tell me how many red guitars we sold last month?” (Okay, maybe it was not that simple, but you get the idea). His response was, “What decision are you trying to inform by asking that?” Hm. Good question. I really didn’t know. It was the typical “The CMO wants to know” question. And those of you who have worked in the corporate world know that when a C wants something, well, you don’t always ask why. Many times, you just do it.

The point is, in order to have a solid analytics strategy, you must have clearly defined goals. Asking “why” is the key to an impactful analytics strategy and can often help you to filter out nonstrategic requests that may not not help you reach your overarching goal.

Who are the stakeholders?

A crucial component in creating an analytics strategy is identifying, engaging with and getting buy-in from stakeholders. Stakeholders have a vested interest in implementing an analytics strategy, and/or tracking against those organizational goals mentioned previously, so it’s important that they are involved at each step of the process.

Stakeholders are also important because, quite frankly, these individuals will be the champions of your strategy and can help you succeed in reaching your goals. To identify who should be involved and how to properly structure your planning discussions, consider a few items:

  • Hold preliminary meetings with stakeholders (individually, if a large group) to discuss organizational and/or departmental goals which the strategy will support
  • Schedule follow-up meetings with individuals or functional teams to discuss the strategy
  • Share the plan – how, when and with what medium will the data be distributed? Include key terminology that will be used and communicated through analytics.\
  • Plan an organization or department-wide presentation of the strategy, identifying key stakeholders to the broader audience
  • Offer to hold future training sessions to give stakeholders a basic understanding of how to read and interpret the forthcoming reports
What does your processes look like (current and future state)?

Now you know what kind of data you should be gathering and who should be involved, but what should you do next? With this step, you seek to identify what the current state of data, reporting, and insights and recommendations sharing looks like.

At this phase, you should create documentation or visualization detailing your most important information:

  • Data sources
  • Reports generated
  • Recommendations/improvements for sharing findings
  • Reporting and presentation cadence
  • Team roles and responsibilities for contributors and stakeholders

By having a clear understanding of these items, you will then be able to lay out your ideal analytics strategy and identify where the gaps are. What does your future state include that your current state does not? Then, work to close those gaps through tool acquisition, creation or elimination of certain reports, inclusion of additional stakeholders or team members, etc.

I often find that eliminating or reducing parts of a process or strategy are just as helpful (sometimes more helpful) than adding to the current process.

How will the culture support the strategy?

Creating your strategy and gaining stakeholder support are the first steps in socializing your analytics plan. Another important step is to ensure that the organizational culture sets you up for success. This can often be hard to accomplish, as it requires a much broader audience to accept and implement organization-wide.

Issues at this level can be mitigated through two primary methods:

  1. Analytics strategies are often driven by those at the highest levels of an organization. Therefore, stakeholder support often comes in the form of a directive from a CEO, CMO, Partner, Board or other highly visible entity.
  2. More often than not, organizations highly value data, insights, and information that can help them make better decisions. This creates a culture primed for analytics strategy adoption.

If either of these is not present, cultural adoption of analytics will require extra effort on your part as well as the part of the stakeholders in order to be successful. Socialize the importance of data and analytics, set meetings to make sure co-workers understand how analytics can help them do their job more effectively and don’t be afraid to show off the results of your efforts!