How to Set Up a Best-in-Class Analytics Team

A starter kit on how to develop the best analytics team

Welcome to the David Avery Starter Kit, the one-stop shop for all your analytics needs!

Just kidding.

This isn’t an infomercial; I’m not selling you something (to be honest, I like my job too much to get into sales). And because I love analytics, oftentimes I meet with prospects and new customers to help show them the art of the possible by having a rich dialogue around best practices and the lessons from my time on the analytics team of a BI company. Here are some of the questions I often hear:

  • How do I get the momentum going for analytics in my organization?
  • What kind of team do I need? How do I build said team?
  • What about apps? Should I build one big app or several small ones?
  • How do I deal with difficult stakeholders?
  • How is your architecture set up? Because we have a data warehouse.

And so on and so forth.

Well, I have good news (cue the sales pitch this time) — you’re in luck! While the David Avery Starter Kit cannot guarantee millions of dollars in profit for your organization, it does help set you up for success in building an app-using, analytics-loving, insights-appreciating organization.

#Qlik's David Avery on how to assemble the super team of data analytics:

Since I can feel your excitement, let’s get started by talking about tool #1: how to build out your analytics team. Contrary to popular belief, the foundation of analytics at your organization is not data — it’s the people using it. And for that, you need an all-star analytics team. Here’s who to include:

  • The Fearless Leader. First things first; you need someone who is going to head up your analytics organization. And, more importantly, your Chief Data Officer or Chief Analytics Officer is going to set an analytics vision for the business. And, even more importantly, they will work to ensure analytics is a well-respected function that has a strategic voice and ongoing participation in execution against organizational objectives.In other words, they’ll help your team get cool projects. So, make sure this person is ready to rock and roll before setting up the rest of the team.
  • The Data Extraction Extraordinaires. These Systems Architects, Data Engineers, and Data Architects are masters of data extraction, manipulation, and governance. They aren’t the builders of the apps themselves but instead deal with the logistics surrounding them, including source data governance, acquisition, management, aggregation, security and scalability. They will set up and streamline server architecture for on-prem solutions or manage administrative capabilities for cloud-based BI solutions. They know how to establish a flawless data foundation and have a keen eye for creating the best possible development environment
  • The Development Wizards. These are the builders of your BI applications. Feel free to have these individuals be the same as your Data Extraction Extraordinaires, but taking advantage of the differing skill sets and experience needed between software development/agile methodologies and server maintenance/IT governance can lead to massive scalability gains (and a lot less headaches).
  • The Reporting Enthusiasts. What good are your apps if you don’t have someone who can reliably report from them? That’s where the Business Analysts come in. These team members can help with requirements gathering and project management for analytics projects, produce static and dynamic BI, third-party in-tool reporting and base level analysis. They are your foundation for establishing subject matter expertise on the team and your first tier of support for analytics requests. Love them. Be kind to them.
  • The Strategic Storytellers. While your Business Analysts will give you the hard and fast facts, you need someone who can put a narrative to the data. Introducing: the Data Journalists, Business Insights Directors and Data Scientists. They can tell stories, provide root cause analysis, help with predictive modeling/machine learning and test hypotheses.

Some organizations think that those who report on the data should be the same ones telling the story behind it. However, my best advice is to avoid doing so because this combined skill set is extremely rare. An ability to both get down into the weeds of the data and come all the way back up to appropriately translate it to key decision makers in a way that provokes them to action is not a common trait. Moreover, that person isn’t doing either of those activities to their fullest potential when they are responsible for both.

  • The Sainted Champions. Unfortunately, this group is often the most forgotten one — but they’re just as important the other roles. These extended team members are usually part of other functions, but they help embed analytics into the culture of the organization, spread the word about the new useful app your team just built, and endorse your team’s value on the cool analytics projects your Fearless Leader won for you.

They can be disguised as business SMEs, marketers, salespeople, executives, and pretty much anyone in the company. Keep an eye out for them, make sure you’re helping them with their business needs and keep in mind you may need to train them on how to train others in the organization. If you need a quick overview of how to do that, check out my blog on training the trainer.

So now you have the team. But how do you set up your application suite?

That’s tool #2. More to come.

What other tools do you want to see in the David Avery Starter Kit? Let me know in the comments below!


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