Effectively leveraging analytics

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As companies increasingly turn to data-driven methodologies to improve direct marketing efforts, non-analytic professionals are faced with acquiring or building analytic capabilities. There are ways make the job easier.

Start by developing a set of clearly stated and shared goals of what you want to achieve with an analytics program. These goals should drive your decision-making throughout the design process.

Spend time up front gaining the buy-in of senior management. While some components of an analytics program will reap immediate rewards, the real value grows over time.

Expand your scope to include both descriptive (reporting and monitoring) and predictive (modeling and forecasting) analytics. Standardize the descriptive analyses, as they are replicable over time. Predictive analytics are better accomplished through customized solutions.

Determine whether you need to outsource by identifying the strengths and limitations of your IT staff. You will need someone on your staff with the necessary expertise to manage the program.

If you do outsource, keep in-house the tasks that frequently occur in the normal stream of your business. Outsource the projects requiring specialized skills. Also, determine which needs can be met by an off-the-shelf solution and which would be best served by a custom-designed solution.

Build an effective analytic team by making careful hires. Start with the lead analyst(s), then build out your team. In my experience, the strongest analytic teams consist of analysts with a variety of strengths and experience. Once you implement the analytics program, continually monitor its impact on top-line revenue and be nimble enough to change course as required. Make sure the program produces actionable knowledge and insight that you can use to improve your daily decision-making.

Finally, have patience. Don't expect overnight success. Recognize that each step is important and takes time. If you are rigorous and flexible in your approach, you should end up with an analytics initiative that starts strong and improves over time.

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