Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Even the Longest Journey Must Begin Where You Stand"

The quote is from Lau Tzu, the Chinese philosopher-turned-management-guru -- and I like it for a couple of reasons. First, it’s so true: you have to honestly appraise your current situation in order to reach any goal. Secondly, no matter how bold your strategy, you can’t obfuscate the situation, thinking that strategy only needs to be stated to be accomplished. As any successful person will tell you, there’s a lot of sweat equity that has to be paid between where you stand and the journey you take.

As you probably know by now, I’m fascinated by data and passionate about analytics and how both will transform our businesses. However, it’s a journey not a sprint and begins with assessing what we call "the path to desired business results":

There are five key drivers of performance in any organization and while analytics might be the means to an end, these enablers are the catalysts. So, standing where you are now, it’s worthwhile asking the following questions:

Strategy: How will analytics help us compete successfully? Will we be able to differentiate ourselves in our markets using analytics?

Leadership: Are we as leaders prepared to commit the organization to an analytics based way of making decisions? Can we give the employees who will have to make this work the buy-in they need to be successful? Can we put aside our impatience and allow them to Think Big but Start Small?

Culture: Do we have data fiefdoms that refuse to share data or collaborate on projects? Do we celebrate the efforts of the early adopters, even if success isn’t guaranteed every time, in the spirit of discovery and experimentation? Analytics is all about experiments, testing, and doing it over and over. Have we made more of our decisions by the seat of the pants and been proud of it?

Employees: Do we want analytics to cascade down into the organization and, if so, are we prepared to properly train those whose jobs it will be to manage the technology that supports their business knowledge? Are we hiring employees for competencies that underpin the need for a broadly based analytics movement?

Customers: This is one area of most businesses that has received the most analytics attention so the questions here are: is our customer data in one place, is it at the lowest level of analysis possible and have we aggregated it across all of our channels?

The analytics journey is probably never ending as technology and competencies improve exponentially to deliver more insight with less complexity. But, knowing where you stand before you take the first step – or flying leap – will ensure that this critical initiative doesn’t crash and burn at the first turn in the road.

What is your analytics journey like? Are you looking first at where you stand or sprinting off for the unknown?

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