Supporting Analysis — Team Structures

by Mar 4, 2020

In the last post of this blog series on being success­ful with digital analyt­ics, I shared my thoughts on how to approach conduct­ing analy­sis. Having the right mindset can go a long way towards driving the overall percep­tion of your team. In this post, I’d like to discuss the way that your team supports the orga­ni­za­tion in terms of digital analyt­ics.

At most orga­ni­za­tions, the digital analyt­ics team is there to support other groups. As such, the analyt­ics team has inter­nal customers that it hopes to assist. Like any group serving customers, there are differ­ent approaches to provid­ing service. These approaches will vary based upon factors such as busi­ness model, size of company, loca­tion of employ­ees and the sophis­ti­ca­tion level of the team and its inter­nal customers. The support model utilized must match the orga­ni­za­tion — a model that works for one orga­ni­za­tion won’t neces­sar­ily work for another.

In my career, I have seen many differ­ent approaches to support­ing digital analyt­ics. At some large orga­ni­za­tions, I have seen a central­ized model. In this model, there is a core digital analyt­ics team that performs most of the analy­sis and inter­nal customers who request assis­tance as needed, often called an analyt­ics center of excel­lence (COE). Many times, these requests utilize a tick­et­ing system submit­ted by inter­nal customers and fulfilled by the core analyt­ics team. The advan­tage of this model is that the core team is inti­mately famil­iar with the imple­men­ta­tion and past analy­ses performed. They are able to answer incom­ing analyt­ics requests more swiftly than novice inter­nal customers and can avoid rein­vent­ing the wheel if they know that a request has been asked and answered before. The down­side of this model is that inter­nal customers often have to get in line behind other requests and are not always empow­ered to pull the data they need them­selves.

In a decen­tral­ized model, there is a smaller core analyt­ics team and most inter­nal customers are trained in the analyt­ics tools and expected to self-serve when it comes to digital analyt­ics data. This approach puts the data directly in the hands of the inter­nal customers so they can pull the data they need when­ever they need it. However, train­ing non-analyt­ics team members on how to use your imple­men­ta­tion and your analyt­ics tool can be quite diffi­cult. This is espe­cially true for inter­nal customers who only need data occa­sion­ally and end up being casual users of the digital analyt­ics tool. I have seen many situ­a­tions where busi­ness users have pulled the wrong data and made misin­formed deci­sions as a result. This can be exac­er­bated if you have many office loca­tions and people of varying tech­nol­ogy skill levels. This model is often extolled as exec­u­tives proclaim they are “democ­ra­tiz­ing data,” but I see many situ­a­tions in which the orga­ni­za­tion is fooling itself about how data is really being used.

The other approach I have seen is the hub and spoke, which is essen­tially a hybrid of the preced­ing two models. This was the model I chose to use when I managed digital analyt­ics at Sales­force. In this model, you have a small core team (hub) that focuses on some of the most crit­i­cal busi­ness ques­tions and educat­ing a small group of people through­out the busi­ness (spokes). Often times the spokes are key people within strate­gic busi­ness units who have an affin­ity for digital analyt­ics data and are more teach­able than the masses. The core team educates these spokes (I called them Ambas­sadors at Sales­force) and relies on them to be the main educa­tor of their team and their first point of contact. If the spoke runs into advanced ques­tions or issues, they would reach out to the hub for assis­tance. That way, the hub has a smaller number of people to support and can dele­gate some of the respon­si­bil­ity to the spokes.

Which model you choose really depends upon your orga­ni­za­tion and its culture. It may take you a few times to figure out which model is best for you, but it is worth taking the time to consider the options.

Action Items

Your home­work for this post is to:

  • Deter­mine what your current support model is today and how well it is working.
  • Consider meeting with your inter­nal customers and bosses and discussing the differ­ent models and the pros and cons for your orga­ni­za­tion.
  • Discussing whether you’d like to try adjust­ing the current support model and, if so, what resources that would require.

In the next post, I am going to discuss train­ing your inter­nal customers on digital analyt­ics for those who decide to go with a decen­tral­ized or hybrid model.

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