Make your analytics plans a reality today

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Geoff Sherman
Geoff Sherman

Author Robert Burns once wrote that “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry” — and that can be the case when it comes to analytics. Without proper planning and organizational engagement, it can be difficult to secure funding and resources needed for analytics. Over the past decade, companies have been much more rigorous in evaluating where to invest capital. Analytics can be a difficult function to quantify ROI on, as benefits are often strategic in nature. But the following are five steps that will help you to sell analytics to your company.

The first step in promoting analytics is to get engagement with key functions in your com­pany who can help justify the need. A great way to organize these people is through a steering committee which can help guide your efforts and build support. At a minimum, this group should include representatives from IT — which has the human resources to get the work done — and finance, to help you to secure the financial resources.

Once you have a steering committee formed, sit down with each of the department heads in your organization who can influ­ence funding decisions. When sitting down with these people, it should be a two-way dialogue where you educate and lay out a vision for analytics as well as understand the key challenges to their functional area. This will enable you to tailor your sales pitch to executive management.

Now that you are starting to get a sense for the key challenges in all areas of your business, it is time to educate the masses on how analytics can help them make their goals. The idea is to generate excitement in the various departments that will get to decision makers who can give you the resources you need. Ad­ditionally, this is a great time to solicit feedback on how analytics can drive real revenue from the people on the front lines.

Have your steering committee identify the 10 questions that if the company had the answers for, would drive the most revenue or cut the most costs. These questions will help to form the foundation for your business case around analytics along with the feedback you have received from department heads.

In these days of ever-tightening budgets, a strong business case is needed to help justify the re­turn on a company's analytics' investments. Having partnered with finance earlier on, you should have a strong advocate to help build that case. In addition, you should have a much better understanding of the key pain points for the organization to improve your sales pitch.

While you may not always get everything you ask for upfront, as you start show­ing your company the power of analytics, I have found that the resources will follow. With a sound financial business case and small wins early on, all of your best-laid analytics plans can and will become a reality.

Geoff Sherman is Sr. Manager, Wal-Mart Financial Services. Reach him at geoff.sherman@wal-mart.com.

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