We are often asked, “what is the best way to create an analytics organization within my company?” While there is no one right answer, we have had the opportunity to observe many highly successful organizations and have identified a few keys to building and running a successful analytics organization.
Let’s start with the reporting structure. Who reports to whom? Who sets the strategy? We have observed firsthand the struggle organizations go through when trying to figure out where analytics should live within the organization — IT, Marketing, Finance, Operations, Office of the CEO. We believe that the analytics organization should report up through a “neutral party,” this avoids as much as possible the political infighting that happens when insights generated by the analytics organization reflect poorly on the performance of team leadership.
Having the analytics organization report directly to the COO or CEO, can help the organization properly prioritize the vision of the business as well as be protected and empowered to deliver true insights for all business units, even if the insights reported show negative results.
When is comes to structuring the team itself, there are four key roles that are critical to success. Depending on the company, one person could potentially play all four roles or there may be multiple people playing a single role. What is important is that each of the skillset is properly represented in the team.
Director of Analytics
This role should report directly into the COO or CEO. The role is multi-focused, serving as both subject matter expert and mentor for the team. The director would handle all of the operational activities associated with running the team such as HR, budget planning, tool administration, vendor relationships, etc. It is critical that the Director, working closely with the COO/CEO, presents insights and findings, aligns business goals and objectives, and sets the vision for the entire team.
The Analyst reports directly into the Director of Analytics. It is very important that the Analyst have experience with a broad range of toolsets and analysis techniques. Analysts can be taught a new analytics platform, but they should come in with a strong background in critical thinking and complex problem solving. Analysts are also story tellers, they should be able to translate their insights into a story that can be told both verbally and visually. Analysts aren’t number crunchers, they are problem solvers.
The Architect is a hybrid role that has one foot in the business and one in IT. The role is responsible for designing optimization tests, setting implementation and integration strategy, building quality assurance routines, and evaluating analytics platforms. The Architect reports directly to the Director of Analytics. This role is extremely critical but is often overlooked, perhaps because this person is so rare and difficult to find.
The Implementor is a solid developer with a background in analytics and testing. Having an implementor that understands the direction of the team and the business, so they can fully understand the reasoning behind specific requests, will save a tremendous amount of time and reduce frustrations. The Implementor is responsible for maintaining data collection, building integrations, and coding tests as designed by the Architect. The Implementor reports directly to the Director of Analytics.
When we build analytics organizations, our focus is always on quality. While others choose to focus on finding talent at the lowest cost or hiring people that are good at talking the talk, we have always focused on building out quality organizations, staffed with talented employees. For us, this starts early in the hiring process, identifying the right types of employees and vetting out their potential by running them through a series of conversations and tests, verifying that they can actually do what they say they can do and that they are committed to quality in everything they do.