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Overwhelmed Analytics Teams

When an analytics team first forms, it usually starts with reporting activities. I frequently warn newly formed teams that as they begin to send information out to internal customers, the number of requests will increase exponentially. That’s wonderful from the point of view of getting your internal customers used to seeing data and engaged with your services, but the workload of reporting activities can quickly exceed the team’s capacity.

Seeking additional headcount is always an option, but it’s rarely a long-term solution and eventually your management will decline your headcount request. The way to move forward from this overwhelming workload is to implement efficiencies and prioritization methods.

Here are a few ideas…

Implementation of Self-Service Reporting Tools

It’s worth the time to invest in technology to provide self-service reporting. However, make sure it’s worth the money. How many reports can be automated with a new technology? For some, the new technology will be a completely different enterprise software and for others, you may only need the implementation of lower cost visualization tools to supplement your main system.

Think About Recurring Requests

Are there particular reporting tasks that are requested repeatedly? If so, it’s worth the effort to automate these as much as possible. By automation, this could be learning new ways in Excel to eliminate some of the steps required to produce the report. It doesn’t have to be highly sophisticated.

The same philosophy can be applied to analytics. For one client, a certain set of analytics were performed every quarter. It was taking 4 days to “put the analysis together” before the analysis could be reviewed for valuable business insights. Using tools like Excel and Tableau, we managed to reduce this analysis preparation time to one day. Less time on prep means more time to think about what the results mean to the business.

Turn the Analytics Team into A Cost Center

I once worked for a Fortune 500’s procurement team analyzing and validating the environmental claims of their products. While considering how to improve our products from an environmental point of view, we decided to run a crucial customer survey that asked two questions. I’ve listed a very informal version of the questions here.

  1. Do you support changes to our products that support environmental goals?
  2. Are you willing to pay more for our products to support these changes?

The result was that people supported environmental changes in theory (a big YES on question 1) but when it came to their own pocketbooks, support disappeared in a hurry (a big NO on question 2).

Let me give you another example of basic human behaviour. When you have a magazine that’s free, many people will sign up for it. When you try to migrate that magazine into a paid subscription service, support for the magazine drops dramatically. Many magazines today operate on a free subscription model to obtain large audiences and rely on advertising fees to create a profitable business model.

The same concept can be applied to the workload of an analytics team. If you turn your analytics team into a cost center, I guarantee you that your internal customers will think twice before requesting a report from your team. When asking for reports comes at zero cost, everyone wants reports. Few people think about whether they’re going to actually make a decision based on the report information. When you attach a price tag to it, a large percentage of the requests will disappear... freeing up your team's resources for other analytical work.

This concept works well for other “internal service” areas such as procurement running RFPs, engineering R&D projects and certain computing services. I don’t recommend this approach for Finance, Accounting, recruitment / onboarding.

Just a few ideas for my analytical colleagues who are feeling buried by their workload.

Bio

Tracey Smith is an internationally recognized analytics expert, speaker and author. Her hands-on consulting approach has helped organizations learn how to use data analytics to impact the bottom line. Tracey’s career spans the areas of engineering, supply chain and human resources. She is CPSM certified through the ISM. If you would like to learn more, please visit www.numericalinsights.com or contact Tracey Smith through LinkedIn. You can check out her books on her Amazon Author Page or on Kobo.

Tracey Smith