Becoming Analytics-Driven Requires a Cultural Shift, But It’s Doable

Analytics-Driven Requires a Cultural Shift
Becoming Analytics-Driven Requires a Cultural Shift, But It’s Doable

For those hoping to push through a hard-hitting analytics effort that will serve as a beacon of light within an otherwise calcified organization, there’s probably a lot of work cut out for you. Evolving into an organization that fully grasps the power and opportunities of data analytics requires cultural change, and this is a challenge organizations have only begin to grasp.

“Sitting down with pizza and coffee could get you around can get around most of the technical challenges,” explained Sam Ransbotham, Ph.D, associate professor Boston College, at a recent panel webcast hosted by MIT Sloan Management Review, “but the cultural problems are much larger.”

That’s one of the key takeaways from a the panel, in which Ransbotham was joined by Tuck Rickards, head of digital transformation practice at Russell Reynolds Associates, a digital recruiting firm, and Denis Arnaud, senior data scientist Amadeus Travel Intelligence. The panel, which examined the impact of corporate culture on data analytics, was led by Michael Fitzgerald, contributing editor at MIT Sloan Management Review.

The path to becoming an analytics-driven company is a journey that requires transformation across most or all departments, the panelists agreed. “It’s fundamentally different to be a data-driven decision company than kind of a gut-feel decision-making company,” said Rickards. “Acquiring this capability to do things differently usually requires a massive culture shift.”

That’s because the cultural aspects of the organization – “the values, the behaviors, the decision making norms and the outcomes go hand in hand with data analytics,” said Ransbotham. “It doesn’t do any good to have a whole bunch of data processes if your company doesn’t have the culture to act on them and do something with them.” Rickards adds that bringing this all together requires an agile, open source mindset, with frequent, open communication across the organization.

So how does one go about building and promoting a culture that is conducive to getting the maximum benefit from data analytics? The most important piece is being about people who ate aware and skilled in analytics – both from within the enterprise and from outside, the panelists urged. Ransbotham points out that it may seem daunting, but it’s not. “This is not some gee-whizz thing,” he said. “We have to get rid of this mindset that these things are impossible. Everybody who has figured it out has figured it out somehow. We’re a lot more able to pick up on these things that we think — the technology is getting easier, it doesn’t require quite as much as it used to.”

The key to evolving corporate culture to becoming more analytics-driven is to identify or recruit enlightened and skilled individuals who can provide the vision and build a collaborative environment. “The most challenging part is looking for someone who can see the business more broadly, and can interface with the various business functions –ideally, someone who can manage change and transformation throughout the organization,” Rickards said.

Arnaud described how his organization – an online travel service — went about building an espirit de corps between data analytics staff and business staff to ensure the success of their company’s analytics efforts. “Every month all the teams would do a hands-on workshop, together in some place in Europe [Amadeus is headquartered in Madrid, Spain].” For example, a workshop may focus on a market analysis for a specific customer, and the participants would explore the entire end-to-end process for working with the customer, “from the data collection all the way through to data acquisition through data crunching and so on. The one knowing the data analysis techniques would explain them, and the one knowing the business would explain that, and so on.” As a result of these monthly workshops, business and analytics teams members have found it “much easier to collaborate,” he added.

Web-oriented companies such as Amadeus – or Amazon and eBay for that matter — may be paving the way with analytics-driven operations, but companies in most other industries are not at this stage yet, both Rickards and Ransbotham point out. The more advanced web companies have built “an end-to-end supply chain, wrapped around customer interaction,” said Rickards. “If you think of most traditional businesses, financial services or automotive or healthcare are a million miles away from that. It starts with having analytic capabilities, but it’s a real journey to take that capability across the company.”

The analytics-driven business of the near future – regardless of industry – will likely to be staffed with roles not seen as of yet today. “If you are looking to re-architect the business, you may be imagining roles that you don’t have in the company today,” said Rickards. Along with the need for chief analytics officers, data scientists, and data analysts, there will be many new roles created. “If you are on the analytics side of this, you can be in an analytics group or a marketing group, with more of a CRM or customer insights title. Yu can be in a planning or business functions. In a similar way on the technology side, there are people very focused on architecture and security.”

Ultimately, the demand will be for leaders and professionals who understand both the business and technology sides of the opportunity, Rickards continued. Ultimately, he added, “you can have good people building a platform, and you can have good data scientists. But you better have someone on the top of that organization knowing the business purpose.’

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