Make the most of your analytical talent
Tips for establishing an analytical center of excellence
As the use of analytics in many sectors of the economy increases, business leaders are developing a greater appreciation for the value and power of analyzing data and making better decisions. Likewise, the advances in many types of analytical technologies have encouraged organizations to make more and better fact-based decisions, validate assumptions and identify root causes of business problems.
However, a large percentage of organizations are still struggling with several aspects of using analytics, including how and where to start, how to take the next step and how to change their internal culture so that analytics becomes integral to the decisions that matter most.
Analytic centers of excellence (CoEs) can help organizations deal with these challenges. Regardless of how much or how little analytic competency an organization may have, analytic centers of excellence provide a means to derive more value through greater insight and better decisions. Let's explore the structure and role of analytic CoEs, and the various organizational aspects that need to be considered to effectively deploy analytics in an organization.
What is an analytic center of excellence?
The center is ultimately a means to support strategy and operations through objective analysis. This organization, or team of experts, must include representatives with business knowledge as well as analytical expertise. The team is permanent with well-defined roles and responsibilities; it is not a temporary group that gets called on an ad hoc basis to address a specific request requiring analytical resources. An initial, temporary structure may be used as the first phase to justify moving to a permanent CoE team. The temporary structure may include virtual teams, outsourced services or other arrangements based on the specific requirements of each organization.
It is important to point out that there are many types of CoEs (also called competency centers or centers of expertise), depending on the focus and scope. Some of the focus areas for these teams include:
Analytic center of excellence tasks
It should be owned and staffed by the organization and include representation from business, analytical experts and IT with well-defined focus for roles, responsibilities and processes.
Collaboration with all appropriate stakeholders is essential – especially the IT and enterprise data warehouse (EDW) teams – to influence the structure of the current EDW environment in support of analytics and analytic best practices.
The team should be committed to providing and managing robust analytical development environments, including data marts, and to providing and managing processes to push results and decision-making logic to production/ operational environments.
Four dimensions of your analytic infrastructure
The application and effective use of analytics requires more than just technology. In practice, technology is the easy part. The other challenging components are related to many aspects of the organization itself. To achieve the greatest degree of success with analytics, organizations have to consider the following four critical components or dimensions of what ultimately comprises the analytics infrastructure:
It is important to structure the data and processes to facilitate the application of analytics, provide the appropriate level of governance (for repeatability, auditability, knowledge management, etc.) and enable closed-loop learning for continuous improvement.
The analytic CoE team should be responsible for the following:
Currently, a large percentage of analytic centers of excellence can be described as specialized, shared-service organizations. These organizations receive requests from the business community to apply analytics to solve problems. There is no question that these types of structures provide value to the organization, but they may not be able to change the internal culture without having a much closer connection and integration with the various business units where better decisions could be enabled.
When used in an ad hoc way and without the right level of executive sponsorship, these shared-service organizations are limited in their ability to have more lasting effects on the way decisions are made and the quality of those decisions.
Making your analytic center of excellence strategic and effective
Such strategic implementations will have the highest chance of promoting widespread, analytically driven decisions and surfacing new opportunities. All CoEs share many common components and characteristics:
This is a comprehensive list of all possible areas that may need to be addressed to ensure proper and effective implementation of an analytic center of excellence. It is important to point out that not all of these functions will be managed by the analytic CoE team. The point is to ensure that these topics are considered so they can be addressed. An assessment will evaluate how these areas are functioning, and how to best use existing resources to enable the analytic experts to focus primarily on solving business problems rather than other data management and quality challenges.
Approaches for establishing an analytic CoE
Bio: Anne Milley works closely with Product Marketing, Product Management and R&D to drive SAS' analytic marketing strategy and direction. She began working with SAS software while finishing her thesis on bank failure prediction at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas. She continued her use of SAS at 7-Eleven Inc. as a senior business consultant. Milley has a Master of Arts in economics from Florida Atlantic University, did post-graduate work at Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen and is proficient in German.