Explained: How analytics function could be viewed by organizations, especially growing ones

Analytics is a much used / abused word. The good news is, it is moving on from being an in-fashion word to a much in-use function. There are of course newer in-fashion words everyone wants to quote, being led by “big data”, but that’s for another time!

There is enough literature out there on what Analytics is and can do, but I would like to begin this series by a simple post on how Analytics could be viewed by organizations. I now believe that this deeply impacts an organization’s ability to leverage the function for its benefit.

Lets start by a very simple definition of Analytics that I use.

Analytics = Analysis.

Hmmm… Too naive?

Lets try this one –> Analytics = Business analysis in a structured manner..

Still too simple?

Well, that is a problem. The reason for having such a simple, but larger view on Analytics, is that it can then be built to be enmeshed with the ENTIRE organization, and not a stand-alone function. Quite often, analytics is muddled with specialization and a much larger scope. I see organizations assume Analytics is exotic statistics and complicated modelling to be done by specialists. Then there are organizations who assume Analytics is about Business Intelligence, reports and now “Big data”. Hence, organizations either feel they are too small or too early to do Analytics; or assume they are already doing Analytics!!

Still got doubts? Fine, humour me for now. Let’s approach defining Analytics in 2 parts – “structured manner” and “business analysis”.

At the UID project, we had a BI and Reporting system in place from the beginning that empowered even an enrolment operator in a remote district of Himachal Pradesh to know the quality (biometric and demographic) of the enrolments he did. Similarly, EVERY manager, especially in today’s age where data proliferates everywhere, is expected to continuously monitor their data to improve their performance. The job of an Analytics function is, quite simply, to ensure EVERY manager is able to do just this in a structured manner. Not just specifically assigned business analysts or external analytics service providers.

Next, the Analytics team can only be effective when directly solving business problems, not cocooned separately solving statistical problems. In an earlier life as an Analytics service provider, we used to provide high-end analytics to the top brand marketers of the world. Never, did they ever come to us with a statistical problem. There was always a business problem and we were expected to provide a business solution which “used” advanced statistics, modelling etc.

In fact, it might help to view and build the analytics team as a team of internal business consultants. No, I am not trying to make the function uber-cool or exalted (well, almost!, though, that doesn’t mean being a consultant is cool either! J). Most analytics professionals, at least the senior ones, are among the few who have end-2-end visibility of the entire organization. Having this unique upstream-downstream view gives a great opportunity to the organization to break internal silos and create 30000 feet as well as on ground view of the company. 2 of the top hardware and services companies in the world and even the UID project have a dedicated team that sits together to leverage the cross-functional learnings very fast. Leveraging this unique benefit this team can offer requires having people who come from the business side and understand it.

In conclusion, I would recommend that the leadership stick to a simplistic view of the Analytics: Analytics = Analysis. Leave the part about making it complicated to MBAs like us.

What are your thoughts?

[About the author: Sudarshan Gangrade leads the Analytics and Digital marketing work at Hoopos.com, a babycare focused Ecommerce firm.  Sudarshan has a wide breadth of experience in the Analytics industry - from creating an analytics practise from scratch within an organization to providing analytics consulting to Fortune 100 Global FMCG majors. Before hoopos, Sudarshan worked for 2 years with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). He anchored the creation and running of the Analytics and Reporting backbone for UIDAI and earlier worked for Marketics. Sudarshan is an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur and IIM Bangalore.]