A lack of communication between analysts and their team is one thing. But a lack of communication between analysts and other departments can be an express ticket to ineffectiveness. That's because providing meaningful insight is nearly impossible without a clear understanding of business goals, recent initiatives, and other information that can affect the data.
Data tells all is a common perception, but true value from analytics comes from blending the who, what, when, where, how, and why—which can't happen without insight into the bigger picture.
What new channels or tactics is Marketing using? What site changes did the website team deploy? What products have been added for sale on the site? What are the website issues that Customer Service is dealing with, or what products are generating high returns? These bigger-picture elements can give an analyst context to understand the data, and the business knowledge to provide insight.
Analysts should be tightly integrated with other departments to provide true value. Here are four ways to improve communication across departments.
1. Get integrated
To work together effectively, teams need to be integrated, and analytics is no different. More often than not, people expect such integration to be organized by superiors, but that should not be the case. If you are an analyst, don't wait for someone else. Take the initiative. Befriend someone from another department. Start scheduling weekly or monthly lunches, or catch up with other departments in the morning over coffee. Doing so will allow you to get the inside scoop on what those departments are working on and to identify areas where analytics could add value.
You may even find you have complementary skills or work that can be brought together for added value. For example, while a digital analyst spends her day looking at data on website engagement, a customer service representative often fields the "your website isn't working!" calls. A wealth of qualitative information is available that, when paired with quantitative data, can help a business go from what to why.
2. Work in closer proximity
Location can play a big role in department integration. I've witnessed significant benefits—and I'm able to contribute more—when I sit close to a website product team rather than being sequestered with other analysts.
I was once responsible for Web and advertising analytics, and I shared an office with the advertising product manager. Between having in-office discussions, overhearing phone conversations, and getting last-minute "Hey, you should be in this meeting" invites, I was able to make a greater impact because of something as simple as the location of my desk.
Propose the idea of closer interdepartmental proximity to your manager, or consider other ways to ensure you're working with other departments daily.
3. Attend meetings
Many people despise adding more meetings to their already-busy schedules. However, issues arise when analysts aren't involved in projects until it's too late. A project typically requires a thoughtful analytics strategy to ensure that the success of the project can be measured (and that current measurement is not interrupted!).
However, an analyst can bring insight as well. For example, if a company is considering a redesign or a new product, the analytics team can help the redesign team to better understand the current experience, thereby informing their plans. Rather than flying blind, maximize that insight! By getting involved in meetings and planning at an early stage, an analyst will likely be able to provide greater value.
4. Prove the value
As an analyst, if you're able to give stakeholders beneficial information that enables them to make better decisions and improve their image, they'll want you involved in other projects.
Don't wait for requests for "a report." Rather, take action, identify where you can add value, and just do it. Just because someone hasn't asked you for something doesn't mean it's not valuable; it just means nobody likely knows to ask. Prove the value of your contributions, and you'll soon have the opposite problem: The company will want to integrate your contributions into everything it does.
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Uncovering ways to work with other departments more often and more effectively will have a direct and positive impact on the company. Rather than limiting analytics to post-hoc measurement, insight can be directly used for product development and business strategy.
Communication is critical to successfully using analytics in an organization, and it's well worth the investment of time and effort.