Archives For Politics

The ownership and use of power and decision-making; influence, agendas and communications styles of influential people; how you will negotiate for power without a formal position

Over the next few years, advanced analytics will emerge as a separate corporate function in some leading companies.  The activity is a mix of IT, Finance, Process Management and Knowledge Management that simply defies the current corporate functional matrix.  Add to that a highly skilled work force whose ethical behavior is (will be) a matter of corporate ethics and law.  It is a strange prediction, admittedly.   But Finance, HR, and Accounting started somewhere.  And that is where advanced analytics is now.

Astute Analytics Executives will position themselves for this evolution.  It is a positive development for the firm, what ever industry you work in.  Analytics is the customer interface in a mass market environment where the preferences of one is the required service or product model.

Don’t expect the new VP of Advanced Analytics to do it all.  When processes and decision-making have to change to exploit insights from data, the line managers, with executive sponsorship, must carry the weight.  Without that, you have models that work on paper but aren’t used in the operations.  It’s tempting to blame the analytics leader but that is misplaced.  Operations managers actually resist doing things in a new way, despite the math telling them otherwise. And the VP of Analytics likely has no power to change that, short of appealing to the executive staff–not a popular move for the analytics lead that also must evangelize for new projects and problems to solve.

Also, commanding a small specialized team is not normally seen as a position of clout, despite the title and sponsorship.  Managers of large operations (financial and headcount) naturally have more influence in most organizations, even if they have a peer title to the advanced analytics leader.

In defense of the operations level manager, they are rightfully reluctant to be accountable for mathematics that is probablistic and hard to understand.  Likely they are also normally protective over the operational influence that analytics can have within their business units.  This creates tension that makes analytics ROI go sideways.

What’s the answer?  For analytics to truly be exploited, operations management must step up….understand the science more, be ready to believe in it and lead their operations to adopting it.  That means they are hired for it, trained for it and managed for it.  How an organization mobilizes for that is under the leadership of a Chief Analytics Officer and a full program management approach to advanced analytics.  Deploying advanced analytics must be seen as the path to promotion for career operations managers.

Secondly, the advanced analytics effort must include Test and Learn experiments for every model pilot that help prove the in-use value of models beyond validation on historic data.  This is a natural extension of the model development work

A naive critic is a toxin to advanced analytics.  If they don’t get the math and have a political agenda to criticize, their critical influence can set the acknowledged success of the analytics program back for many cycles. If the critic holds a position of power, even their off-hand and casual comments can result in a self-fulfilling cycle: a skeptical judgement by the executive staff slows sponsorship and funding of the work and adoption of the results , which slows the measurable business impact, which then seems to  validate the criticism.

How to respond?  Your executive sponsor must set the tone and defend the territory.  You must be emotionally neutral but objectively rigorous in defense of the work with deliverables that novice executives can understand.  You must make the critic eat their words by validating business results in any way possible (lower level managers, financial metrics, other departments).  Lastly, you will be expected by the executive team to face your critic head-on.

It is in this lonely place that the Analytic Executive must stake his/her ground with key principles: 1) there is value in the data, 2) applied mathematics can extract that value, 3) the value can be proven and measured.

Most executives have been exposed to the buzz about analytics and should be open to these propositions. 

Tactically, be sure there is a wide audience when presenting model results.  Have your cheerleaders in the room.  Wait to present results publicly until you have socialized them with stakeholders one-on-one.  Ask critical questions of yourself first, from a business perspective.  Don’t over promise and give fuel to the critic.