By Zhengda “Z” Shen, Executive Vice President, Data and Analytics
It’s a game changing time for marketers. The digital data explosion, combined with advancements in technology, are providing some incredible marketing opportunities. Marketplace winners are those organizations that can rapidly transform the stockpiles of data into actionable insights to drive decisioning and execution. More and more organizations are looking at creating centralized analytics teams. But it’s not enough to simply hire a team of analysts to support both your strategic and operational analytics needs. There are five critical elements to consider:
A New Breed of Analytics
Big data analytics of today relies on an intersection of skills and expertise. Traditionally, there have been three types of analysts that together bring the expertise required to support customer-centric strategies:
- the classic statistical analyst, or statistician;
- the data analyst, who is an analyst with a good handle on data and technology; and
- the business analyst, who brings a blend of analytic and business skills together to serve the needs across the enterprise.
Marketing analytics as a science is evolving. We are working with more data than ever before, and analytics and big data technology are merging together to enable faster paths to insights and real time application of analytics. Marketing analytics today must be operationalized through technology, which requires data scientists who understand the intersection of big data technology, predictive analytics, and business application.
Importance of Priorities
Project prioritization is another challenge. Often, centralized analytics teams have many requests from the organization, so it becomes difficult to focus on the more strategic projects that support marketing goals. Recently, I was talking to the head of analytics at a large bank, and he was explaining the challenge of prioritizing internal requests.
“Teams are requesting all sorts of ad-hoc, operational support, which takes our eye off the larger strategic marketing objectives we have. For example, Sales Operations requesting incentive plan analytics was certainly not on our radar when we formed our team.”
Some organizations have created a separate marketing analytics team focusing on site analytics, digital media analytics, and traditional marketing program analytics in order to solve this challenge. By forming distinct teams, this could provide the needed focus, differentiated expertise, and relief from competing priorities.
Integration of Analytics
In today’s digital world, analytics needs to be embedded and integrated with other components of the CRM ecosystem so insight-driven execution can become a reality — and to avoid analytics in isolation. No matter what business unit the analytics teams are reporting into, there must be a solid bridge across IT and Marketing to support successful customer-centric strategies. Analytics needs to be a contributor on the front line of execution overall, not in silos, with findings and results that die on a PowerPoint slide. It’s the integration between the analytics layer and the operation and execution layer that enable analytics to be pushed into production, where actioning truly occurs.
Strong Employee Value Proposition
Recruiting the very best talent is a significant challenge when there is a massive shortage of analytic talent in the marketplace today. It is critical to have a clear value proposition for why top talent would want to join your organization. Great analysts always want to work on cool stuff; they want to know they are joining a team that will feed their curiosity and enable them to grow. They also want to feel they are part of an analytic community with a fun work environment and a progressive culture. To better compete in attracting top talent, you need to ensure your organization delivers on these elements, along with the most competitive package possible.
Foster Innovative Culture
Retaining top talent requires an environment that fosters innovation and provides its analytic team access to the latest methods, tools, and technologies to support their growth. But doing this is not easy. Marketing technology is evolving so rapidly, particularly on the digital and ad tech side, it’s almost impossible for a single organization to keep up. ChiefMartec says in 2014 there were 947 marketing tech companies, while that number has doubled in 2015 to 1,876 and growing. It’s certainly a challenge for teams who are dedicated to marketing analytics to keep up. It’s even harder for more generalist analytic teams who support the entire organization and lack specialization in marketing analytics. Analytic generalists are not experts on how to apply analytics to create actionable marketing insights, particularly in evolving areas such as programmatic media. Organizations need to have the necessary specialized expertise and overall ensure their talent has access to the newest marketing technology innovations.
One More Thing to Consider
In my experience, having worked with many world-class global brands, organizations that do have a centralized analytics team are most successful when they have a separate, dedicated team focused on marketing analytics. More and more organizations are augmenting their centralized analytics teams by working with external partners who can layer in the additional expertise, latest practices, and newest technologies that are needed to help build the innovative culture needed to attract and retain talent. Regardless of your analytics team model, having a centralized steering committee that drives the analytics agenda and prioritization will ensure the support required to meet your organization’s customer-centric marketing analytics needs.