Reinvent your analytics team

Analytics may be your greatest advantage, but if you stop moving forward, your competitors will pass you by

Great white sharks die if they stop moving; so do businesses. Business analytics may be your greatest advantage – providing cost savings through economies of scale and scope, helping you win market share, retain customers, drive better outcomes, and manage fraud. But these results require focus and forward motion. Your greatest differentiator can, and will, be copied by your competitors. All it takes is time and for you to stop pushing ahead.

Staying ahead of the curve means developing and acquiring new skills. Here are eight trends to keep an eye on. In our never-ending race to stay ahead, they may just be the difference between your organization's success and failure.


Stubbs sascom
Evan Stubbs, SAS

1. Big Data

Capturing big data is hard enough, but a bad query could run for months! Getting the most out of big data requires skills, experience and high-performance analytics. Don't be caught unawares, or one of your biggest assets (data) will go to waste.

2. Data Quality

Having lots of data is one thing. Having lots of good data is another. Too often, teams fail to make the distinction and assume that because it's in the warehouse, it's good enough. Data quality is like oxygen: You can't see it without the right tools, but if it's not there, it's going to hurt. If you've got a team you can lean on to fix your data, you're one of the lucky few. If you don't, join the queue and take ownership of solving the problem.

3. Mobile Systems Design

Apple's iPad® turned an industry on its head. Microsoft's Surface may flip the market yet again. As fast as things are moving, one thing's clear: The way we act on information is drastically changing. If acting on insight means anything to you (and it should), you'll need to provide advanced analytics with interactive reports on mobile devices. At some stage in the near future, designing static reports for a portal is going to seem as quaint as distributing hard-copy memos.

4. Applied Psychology

Psychology might seem like a strange fit in a highly quantitative field like analytics. The thing is, we can't quantify everything. From an internal perspective, influencing an organization requires a good understanding of persuasion and communication preferences. From an external perspective, influencing customers requires a good understanding of behavioral psychology. Keep a psych major on call, and you'll be able to take your predictions to the next level.

5. Linguistics and Natural Language Processing

The vast majority of data we're generating is text-based. We're social creatures – we like email, Facebook and sharing funny photos of cats. Analyzing this unstructured data requires different skills. Rather than keep trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, just get the right skills to begin with. You'll kick yourself for not thinking of it sooner.

6. Graph Theory

Our social networks define who we are. Knowing "who's who in the zoo" is about more than just pressing palms; complex networks can involve billions of point-to-point connections. A smallish country can generate a few billion telephone calls every month, all of which are open to social network analysis. Having strong skills in graph theory can open this data up to analysis, driving improvements in marketing, retention and fraud management.

7. Workflow Design and Process Re-engineering

Productivity differences between business analytics teams can be staggering. In some cases, the highest performing teams can be over 1,000 times more productive than an average team, spread across the number of assets they manage, the processes they maintain, and the time it takes them to move from defining a problem to generating value. That doesn't happen by magic – they're extremely good at process design and constantly reinventing themselves.

8. Operations Research

Doing more with less isn't new. What is new is the need to do it everywhere. A good optimization model can cut millions of dollars of marketing cost while also increasing conversion rates. Every prediction can benefit from optimization; if you're not optimizing your outcomes, you're leaving money on the table.

Bio: Evan Stubbs is the Chief Analytics Officer for SAS Australia. Author of The Value of Business Analytics, he is a recognized expert in innovation and regularly runs workshops on how to extract value from business analytics.

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