The Business Analytics Program

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Create a program that is right for your organization's maturity and culture.


Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the book 5 Keys to Business Analytics Program Success (MC Press, October 2012).

Many organizations overestimate the ease by which a formal Business Analytics Program is put in place. They may not recognize the breadth of impact the program will have on the organization. It is often believed that the hard decisions are over once you choose a technology. The technology in itself has been identified at times as the easier part of the equation. It's the people, processes, and culture of the organization that can often present continual challenges.


Like the strategy that goes before it, the Business Analytics Program needs to constantly maintain and adapt its various components. A few analytic experts sitting in a line-of-business (LOB) department using a flashy new tool don't equate to a successful Business Analytics Program. Nor does an IT team with a data warehouse. Quite the contrary. A Business Analytics Program singlehandedly run by a few members of an IT team is likely to experience many political roadblocks. While a program has to start somewhere, it is also premature for an organization just dipping its toes into analytic technologies to explain to the executive team a vision of a complex Business Analytics Program with cross-departmental collaboration, and dedicated resources with technology standards, without internal proof points on how it has made an initial difference. This is why a vision that includes change and maturity over time is necessary.


In the next several chapters, we discuss the five essential elements—or keys—that we believe need make up a successful Business Analytics Program (Figure 2). And we share some practical advice you can start using today as you create a program that is right for your organization's maturity and culture.


112612Tracy 5135 5 Keys Fig-02


These essential elements include:


1. Strategy: Creating a strategy once doesn't mean you have completed the task. A strategy will change over time, and it requires ongoing focus and attention. While strategy is the driving force of a Business Analytics Program, it often can be undefined in terms of ownership. The importance of this element of the initiative merits increased focus because there is rarely a central coordinating body and the initiative may consist of many owners. In the Strategy chapter (Chapter 1), we discuss practical examples of core elements of managing a changing strategy, such as:

  • Stakeholder assessment and identification
  • Assessment of strategy
  • Business alignment
  • Prioritization and roadmap
  • Metrics framework and measurement
  • Strategy development and change


2. Value: Understanding and documenting the success and business cases will increase the value of the overall Business Analytics Program; however, this is often the first area to suffer neglect when the team is busy with the day-to-day tactics. Building a value portfolio, defining outcomes and targets, and measuring success often falls behind other priorities—causing difficulty when teams want to go back for additional resource investment. In the Value chapter (Chapter 2), we discuss:

  • Business case
  • Value portfolio—including IT efficiency, business efficiency, and business effectiveness
  • BI metrics and feedback


3. People: A Business Analytics Program involves a wide range of people throughout the organization, and ensuring the right ones are on board and having an organization to support this will increase your success. We agree that the people element of the program is where you will face risk of derailment if this element is not managed well. In the People chapter (Chapter 3), we discuss a few areas of focus that will increase your success and discuss some of the challenges you can avoid, including:

  • Organizational design—the Center of Excellent
  • Skills, talent, and roles
  • Relationship management, communication, and evangelism
  • Executive support management


4. Process: A Business Analytics Program needs to implement processes, policies, and guidelines that will help assist the team's success. However, it can easily become bogged down with process—and agility will suffer. Process needs to be implemented, monitored, and continually evaluated to ensure you can grow yet maintain an Agile Business Analytics Program. In the Process chapter (Chapter 4), we discuss:

  • License and standards management
  • Support
  • Education and adoption
  • Requirements gathering
  • Governance—strategy, data, change, IT, and platforms
  • Process design
  • Proven practice sharing
  • Advise and consult framework


5. Technology: Technology is, of course, the backbone of the entire program—but technology should follow and not lead the program. Understanding the business need behind the technology implementation—and the technology selection—is required to ensure the technology can meet the needs of the business. At the same time, because innovation is rapid today, users may not know the "art of the possible." A balance between the two must be recognized. In the Technology chapter (Chapter 5), we discuss:

  • Choosing capabilities that fit the business needs
  • Introducing a platform of standards
  • Information Management and governance
  • Encouraging adoption with the right architecture, performance, and scalability
  • Continual innovation


Across each of our organizations, these five key areas were consistently identified as elements that require focus in order to increase the success of a Business Analytics Program. Each of our organizations matured in these areas as our Business Analytics Programs grew, most often beginning as a fairly small group of like-minded analytic champions—in some cases virtual with a common vision, working together—and gradually putting in processes to develop a robust multi-discipline program that crossed departments and gained momentum over time.


This is why program maturity is central to this book—each of our organizations went through it, and we discovered that there were several things we did in common that helped our organizations succeed:

  • Small steps: Taking small steps, instead of "boiling the ocean," and creating a series of successes that continually drove trust and interest in the program
  • Communication and collaboration: Open communication and collaboration to drive far-reaching teams together in a vision
  • Agility and openness: Remaining agile and open to change, and discussing and debating needs and requirements
  • Self-service: Ensuring self-service and access instead of being gatekeepers to information or holding up business requirements


In the following chapters, we share our view of these elements that we believe are the most critical components you need to consider for your program as you rise through the maturity levels—with a goal to help others create a successful Business Analytics Program on their own. Each organization is different—and may manage these elements differently—but they are a group of elements that need to be considered throughout the lifecycle of your Business Analytics Program.