How to build your analytics dream team

Jul 14, 2021
Analytics Insights

The season has come and gone: For the last few weeks, top-level soccer has been everywhere. And while I love the sport, my favourite thing is the commercials. My all-time favourite is Adidas Jose +10 from 2006. Fun fact: According to Reddit, this ad was done by a then-small creative shop called 180 Amsterdam, which was acquired later that year on the back of the campaign's success.

The premise of the Adidas ad was simple but brilliant. Two ordinary kids pick the impossible team for a quick match. And their picks show up, live, right in front of them. Epic.

You may have played this game if you were a kid like me who was into sports. So a while ago, I decided to play it at a CMA Insights Council meeting. Same rules: build your dream team. But for marketing analytics.

Not as exciting as the Euro Cup, of course. Actually, I take that back. If you like to geek-out like I do, it can be just as fun. Here are some interesting things that came to light.

Same but different

As we were going through this exercise, we encountered the dilemma you find every time you compare business and sports. For sports, the outcome of success is clear, defined, and agreed upon by Every. Single. Person. Goals and roles are both clear. Get the ball to the back of the net. Do this more often than the other team.

But business success is not that simple or linear. Even the same teams in the same organization may not agree on what real success looks like. If the goal is revenue, what about profits? If profits, what about shareholder value? If shareholder value, then...well, you get the point. In fact, in some worse-case scenarios, teams in the same company have conflicting interests and goals. We all know it’s more common than we'd like to admit.

The first step is to define what the analytics and insights team is meant to accomplish. Specifically, to “establish and rank the team’s KPIs in order to set them up for success,” to quote Gillian MacPherson, VP of Digital Strategy & Product for Epsilon Data.

Who do they report to?

Next question is which department does the team fall under? There is considerable debate whether the analytics and insights teams should report to the CMO, CIO, or both. Most of that decision centres around what the team’s true function is.

There are those who think analytics, which deals with a lot of digital data, should be under IT. But the data isn’t really the point. What matters is the decisions the insights and analytics teams enable. What are the questions they are trying to answer? Ultimately, who has the authority – formally or informally – to make decisions based on these insights?

“The job of analytics and insights is to equip decision-makers with knowledge. So, engaging with the folks who have decision rights is absolutely critical to their success,” says Richard Nestor, AVP, Marketing Analytics and Insights at TD. In other words, your analytics team needs to report to the people who can make decisions based on their insights.

Lastly, who do you pick?

Instead of picking names for our ideal team, we picked roles. These roles fall into four categories. Note that each role isn’t necessarily covered by one person, and one person may fall into multiple roles.

First category: analysts. These roles are tasked with managing the data and extracting insights. This could include jobs such as financial analysts, data analysts and data engineers, as well as a data officer to oversee privacy and compliance.

Next: data translator. The bridge between analysis and the business. These roles could include marketers, researchers and behavioural scientists. They are tasked with formulating the business challenge and telling the story behind the data, drawing a silhouette of the answers the business seeks. Because as Emma Warrillow, Practice Lead, Analytics at Trendline Interactive, puts it: “If you know 70% of the answers you’re looking for, count yourself lucky!”

Then there’s the ‘why guy’ (who may of course not be a guy). “Every analytics team needs a critical thinker, someone who can relate the ‘why’ back to the business,” says Scot Riches, Chief CRM Officer at RI.

Lastly we need to look at ‘right brain’ roles. These roles help action the insights and formulate the right questions. Again, be mindful that these roles don’t need to be specific to a person. It’s not about, “You, Joan Jones, your job is to be as creative as you can.” Oftentimes, marketers are tasked with these roles.

Building or re-building the right analytics and insight team is difficult but mission critical. Playing a conceptual game of creating your dream team can be an excellent first step in this exercise. Fun, too!

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Mo Dezyanian

President Empathy Inc.




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