You’re the New Chief Analytics Officer, What’s Next?

Critical Moves — The First 100 Days

Congratulations! You’ve just landed the role of Chief Analytics Officer (CAO). What a great milestone! The days ahead will be exhilarating, frustrating, and challenging. Having helped dozens of leaders set up their programs, we’ve found it’s common to come in to a newly created role or take on an established function only to find fragmented silos of resources, projects, and politics. In addition, user expectations are high, resources are stretched, and technology platforms may not yet be in place to support a high-performing analytics function. Finally, other stakeholders may lack the expertise to fully appreciate the potential impact artificial intelligence applications can have on the organization.

Through our work with leading organizations, we’ve identified three critical objectives CAOs must accomplish to launch their programs quickly and successfully. These objectives include organizing analytics teams, building productive partnerships, and managing expectations.

Organizing Analytics Teams

The most important priority for new CAO’s is forming the core team. It’s important to identify the potential members of the analytics team and other stakeholders who know how to get stuff done. Some of these individuals may reside in the analytics department while others may reside throughout the organization in the form of citizen data scientists, thought leaders, and key influencers who have deep insights of the organization culture, issues, and it’s needs. Once these individuals are identified, the next step is to develop them into a cohesive, high-performing team.

One effective way to organize the team is through an analytics leadership retreat where individuals can connect with each other, bring different perspectives, challenge each other, and develop a better respect for each other’s opinions. Not only must they coalesce as a team, they must gain consensus on how their function(s) fit within the broader organization. You may not have all the right players on the team at the outset. Don’t settle for what you have, keep searching and developing individuals until you have a high-performing group that can take the organization to the future, wherever that may be.

Build Productive Partnerships

Once the core team is identified, engage other key influencers, allies, and groups who can quickly mobilize and support the analytics vision. This task will involve a mix of evangelism, diplomacy, and education as different parts of the organization will bring various biases, historical baggage, and levels of technical fluency. Through the process of engaging stakeholders and gaining a better appreciation of their needs, it will be easier to overcome inertia and establish an effective analytics program.

To develop such partnerships, it’s helpful to understand the specific business issues, capabilities, and priorities analytics can enhance. The objective at this stage isn’t to solve the problem but to identify options once you’ve prioritized the key levers and synergies that can help you get some quick wins and build credibility for the program.

Managing Expectations

Many of us have heard the value of coming into a new role with a 100-day plan. While great in concept, in practice many CAOs find they must hit the ground running with a point of view that resonates with some stakeholders while not representing a threat to others. This point of view should be synthesized into a vision that communicates how the analytics organization will drive value.

This vision should consider two important perspectives. Many organizations must develop internal capabilities to overcome tactical deficiencies such as management reporting (i.e., defense) while at the same time enabling new capabilities augmenting human capabilities through automation and predictive analytics (i.e., offense). Conversely, today’s competitive environment requires analytics teams to respond quickly to shifting business priorities while maximizing shareholder value (i.e., protecting market share, generating new sources of value). Organizations that focus on the internal capabilities can miss out on significant business opportunities while those who overemphasize external capabilities can outrun their internal capacity, ultimately resulting in customer frustration and missed expectations. These perspectives are illustrated in the graphic below with examples to facilitate discussions with the leadership team. Once initiatives are prioritized and funded, the CAO can more effectively articulate a vision to engage key leadership.

Bringing it All Together

By addressing these three objectives, CAO’s can accelerate the launch of their programs while avoiding momentum stalling pitfalls. Moving quickly through the initial launch with a clear game plan can inject energy and excitement regarding the analytics program. The ideal path gets the right people engaged from the beginning, leverages collaborative partnerships, and aims for a vision that balances internal and external defensive and offensive priorities to score quick wins and build credibility. As a result, the CAO, the data science team, and partners can become a powerful catalyst for change capable of transforming the organization and its customers relationships.

This is a unique time for you, your team, and your organization. You may not have all the answers right away and you may not yet have all the right players on your team, but by moving quickly to get the right parties engaged, you will be positioned to achieve your vision and have a positive, lasting impact on your organization.

For more information on how to quickly build momentum for your program, please contact Mike Brooks at mike.brooks@slalom.com