Analytics Excellence Leadership by Kaan Turnali

Analytics Excellence Starts And Ends With Leadership

Analytics excellence demands leadership excellence at all levels of the organization—not just at the top.

In my last post, I described analytics excellence as the relentless pursuit of driving growth and profitability. Of all the pieces we’ll explore in this series, leadership is most important to analytics excellence because our success depends on it more than anything else.

While the role of executive leadership is critical to any project, several aspects of enterprise analytics require senior executives to be closely involved. Moreover, although the CIO/CTO plays a vital part in making sure the right technology is acquired or developed, executive leadership—and more important executive ownership—from the business side provides the right level of partnership to run on all three cylinders of analytics: Insight into the right data, for the right role and at the right time.

Let’s start with the obvious question: Why do we need executive leadership?

Unlike grassroots efforts, analytics requires a top-down approach. Whether the strategy is developed as part of a structured initiative or as a standalone engagement, leadership ownership at the top delivers three fundamental ingredients:

  1. Alignment between the analytics strategy and overall business strategy
  2. The availability of required resources
  3. Necessary guidance to stay the course

Is having executive leadership enough?

No, leadership only on paper isn’t enough. Executive commitment and leadership have a direct impact on the outcome. Ideally, senior leaders are champions of the cause, avid analytics users, and one of the most active consumers of these solutions.

How do we know if executive leadership is ready to support and command an analytics excellence mindset?

First and foremost, these executives lead by example. When making business decisions that matter, they are keen on using actionable insight derived from analytics assets—every day.

By using technology, they demonstrate firsthand a mindset for analytics excellence, setting an example for the rest of their team. Also, recognizing the information available through these analytics assets as the single source of the truth enables executive leadership to provide a clear and consistent message for everyone to follow.

Is leadership at the execution level critical too?

While leadership at the top provides guidance on the business strategy, leaders responsible for analytics operations or platforms enable effective implementation of the strategy.

Successful analytics leaders at the execution level come with certain traits that may be overlooked. First and foremost, they run a customer-centric analytics organization that focuses all of its energy on its customers (or in this case, the business users they service within the enterprise). Second, they design integrated solutions or processes that not only contain individual parts that are necessary, but also complete the system as whole—rather than just delivering fragmented pieces that make up an incomplete stack.

This path requires a holistic approach, which takes into account every facet of the analytics user experience and goes beyond just delivering reports or dashboards. Analytics leaders stress the importance of having a reliable empowerment infrastructure that includes communication, training, support, among other things—an investment that will galvanize and empower the user base.

Identifying analytics leaders with the right vision and background presents an opportunity to deliver solutions on the right foundation. We want to seek out traits—such as passion, tenacity, and customer empathy—that will breed analytics excellence and innovation at the execution level.

How about the presence of leadership at the individual level?

Leadership presence at the individual level is the glue that binds everything together. Whether we are designing, developing, delivering, or supporting analytics solutions, it is the attitude that must be adopted by everyone participating and carrying out every decision. Analytics excellence is found in our relentless pursuit to go the extra mile.

As Peter Drucker once explained, “Most discussions of decision making assume that only senior executives make decisions or that only senior executives’ decisions matter. This is a dangerous mistake. Decisions are made at every level of the organization, beginning with individual and professional contributors and frontline supervisors.”

Analytics excellence demands a leadership mindset from everyone—whether we engage in highly technical roles or business-facing functions. We treat every opportunity to support our users as something worthy of leadership regardless of our responsibility or position. Their success becomes our success. That’s the essence of analytics excellence leadership!

Bottom line

The most important goal of analytics is to enable faster, better-informed decision making. Analytics excellence demands the right leadership at all levels to afford the best chance of driving growth and profitability. In the absence of it, we will face an uphill battle—even with the most advanced technology in place.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the #AnalyticsExcellence thought leadership series!