Bridgestone, Lenovo: Talk total benefit to sell analytics

By Anne-Lindsay Beall, SAS Insights Editor

When Anthony Volpe talks about how analytics needs to evolve, he speaks in blunt terms: “We don’t question the ROI of IT,’’ says Volpe, Chief Analytics Officer at Lenovo. “It’s a budgeted item. That’s what I’d like to get to with analytics. It would be nice if you didn’t have to go panhandling for every project – if you didn’t have to constantly sell the value.”

Volpe and Keith Moody, Director of Analytics for Bridgestone Retail, discussed ROI and how to make the case for funding analytics projects during an analytics panel at The Premier Business Leadership Series in Las Vegas.

Though analytics has shown strong returns for years, project-to-project funding is still common. Even the idea of having a centralized analytics chief is new for both Bridgestone and Lenovo. Volpe took the new position two years ago, and Moody is, likewise, the first in his position. “I want to reach the point where there is no more convincing,’’ Moody says.

How to get funding for your analytics projects

One quick hack to ease funding woes? Befriend the finance people.

“We’ve been working on a predictive model for decision making. We lay out what we’ve got and what we had before. Finance is working with us; they have a seat at the table,’’ Moody says.

“Finance’s involvement is absolutely critical,” Volpe says. “Any number you put out there will be called into question unless the finance guys are there to say: ‘This number works; we’ve audited it.’”

Why not a simple ROI calculation?

But why do you need a finance analyst in the room? Can’t ROI be shown another way? What about metrics? Moody and Volpe say sophisticated analytics has evolved to the point where simple metrics don’t tell the story.

“The calculations are becoming so much more complex, and we want to get to the point where we start to look at social media analytics data, which is harder to model and quantify,’’ Moody says.

Lenovo is mining social media and customer center information to understand customer desires and reshape customer perception; simple metrics don’t apply.

“Text mining can transform our business. It can really change our brand, change perception of quality and the view of how responsive we are to consumer needs. I don’t know how to value that. What’s the value of transforming the brand? It calls for a different way of thinking,’’ Volpe says. And though his group must seek funding on a project-by-project basis, Lenovo’s forward-looking definition of success includes intangibles like brand perception.

“We can get into storytelling, look at what we’ve been able to do for sales with a handful of products and extrapolate,’’ Volpe says. “But ROI is never the question; the question is total benefit. Is this project a better overall investment?’’


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