In his book, Analytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results, co-author Robert Morison (pictured) tells the story of how McKesson Pharmaceutical and its use of business analytics helped improve the supply chain process at the heart of the enterprise.
The company supplies branded, generic and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals to more than 40,000 customers. Building on its longstanding process orientation, the company brought together data from sales, logistics, purchasing and finance to enable integrated analysis at the key decision points in distribution.
Now managers can look up and downstream in the supply chain to see the operational and financial impacts of their decisions about delivery scheduling, transportation utilization, and order adjustments. With an analytical assist, they succeeded in driving major improvements in operational efficiency and customer service simultaneously.
“The great thing about analytics is that it can ultimately improve and optimize the business on multiple fronts,” said Morison, one of the keynote speakers at IBM’s Business Analytics Summit events
. “Success with analytics happens at the intersection of technical analytics and being an analytical organization. The goal is to raise both the analytical capability and the organization’s appetite for more and better analytics."
Many organizations already have at least a few strong “pockets” of analytics, often in operations, finance or marketing. The challenge, according to Morison, is to tap into those strong players and build and spread capability across the enterprise.
“Data scientists and analysts thrive on challenging work and the freedom to explore, and they expect analytical results to be deployed into action,” said Morison. “Organizations that constantly leverage new data, stay focused on the business problems, and have strong executive support for analytics will be successful.”
In his keynote, Morison outlines six informal, everyday roles that analysts can play in their interactions with business colleagues across the enterprise, and in the process help weave analytics into the fabric of the business:
Role 1: Be a Data Demon
Be hyper-attuned to using information and what you might be able to do with it. Always ask if the data is sufficient? Is it combinable? Unique? Valuable? It is also this person’s role to influence the “Data Dodger” who questions the validity of new information that challenges the methods of the old world view.
Role 2: Be an Opportunity Finder
Generate and explore data, find the decision points, review performance relentlessly, offer new metrics, ask forward-looking questions, and always be thinking how analytics can improve business processes. For example, see how analytics improved the claims handling process at Santam Insurance.
Role 3: Be a Personal Trainer
Every organization needs a bench of analytical talent that includes professionals (highly skilled data scientists), semi-pros (business analysts) and amateurs (analytically oriented and capable business people). The goal is to pay it forward and continuously work with the amateurs to hone their skills, offer suggestions to their analysis, and make them more self-servicing.
Role 4: Be a Cultural Arbiter
Always be searching for the truth and push back when the data and rigor are weak, and, conversely, applaud and give a pat on the back when data and rigor are strong. It’s also important to continuously play the devil’s advocate by asking the tough questions and valuing the negative results.
Role 5: Be an Exemplar
No matter your title in the organization (executive, manager, front line employee), be aware of the data you use and of your decision-making methods, use available analytics in your work, and practice the behaviors of an analytical culture.
Role 6: Be a Community Organizer
The keys are to always connect and collaborate across the enterprise with others who are also involved in analytics projects, as well as network outside of the firm to recruit new analysts and different thinking. Also remember to blog your work and share best practices with others.
Whetting the Analytics Appetite
Morison emphasized that these roles build an organization’s analytical capability and appetite day-in and day-out, as analysts influence the thinking and actions of business colleagues. By continuously raising, whetting and refining the appetite for analytics, it becomes easier to develop and deploy analytics solutions with major business impact.
As Morison said, analysts should “indulge their curiosity, influence their friends, and enable the organization.”
And make everyone hungry for more.
For more information:
· Find a Business Analytics Summit in a city near you where you can see Robert Morison in person, or one of our other featured keynote speakers