The Most Undervalued Analytics Tool: Communication
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The Most Undervalued Analytics Tool: Communication

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Companies are quick to throw money at technology, but rarely invest the same way to address fundamental flaws in communication. This presentation provides advice for digital analytics professionals to ...

Companies are quick to throw money at technology, but rarely invest the same way to address fundamental flaws in communication. This presentation provides advice for digital analytics professionals to communicate better within their team, with other departments, with executives and with partners.

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  • Recently, someone asked what I thought the most undervalued tool in analytics was. Perhaps he expected me to respond with a specific solution that didn't have the recognition it deserved, or a new gem that I'd found.However, after pondering the question, I realized that what is most undervalued is not a tool…
  • It's communication.
  • We say, “It’s not about the tools, it’s about the people.” But what do we invest in? Tools.Yes, there are investments to be made in tools. And there are investments to be made in people. However, you can’t just throw money at bringing in shiny new tools, or more people.It is pointless to pour money on top of flaws in basic communication.
  • We all know - Analysts in a silo don’t have the IMPACT they could, or provide the value they should.
  • Does this sound familiar? “He doesn’t read the reports anyway, so we use a random phrase generator” Often what needs to be improved is not the data, the reports, the analysis.It’s the communication of them.
  • So, today we’re going to take about my tips for –1. Communicating within your team of analysts2. Communicating with other departments3. Communicating with executives4. Communicating with partners/vendors/agencies/consultantsThese are by no means exhaustive!
  • So first – how can you communicate better within your team? Or, if we’re honest, maybe it looks a little more like this…
  • Talk to one another:This sounds like a “duh” point, but it’s easy to fall into habits! And especially for analysts, sometimes we get heads-down in our little cave, and don’t surface to talk to others. Unfortunately, hours of time can elapse – and much more time spent – on back and forth emails, when a short conversation would have cleared things up more expediently. So - don’t just email (especially long email threads) Better? Instant message – more real timeBetter? Pick up the phone and TALKBetter? Hope on video chat, or share screens and talk through itBetter? Walk over and TALK to them! Even if you have to schedule 10 mins on a calendar to do it. Often the issues we need to discuss with someone can get a little complex. An in person conversation – heck, even diagraming stuff up on a whiteboard – can much more easily explain what would need a 10000 word email to detail. 2. Schedule short, regular meetingsCall it whatever you want - daily standup / huddle / “homeroom”Discuss - What are you working on? Priority? What is your one top priority, the one thing you HAVE to achieve today. Any challenges / roadblocks? Do you need help? Are there issues someone else could help you solve? What have you delivered recently? (“Wait, I delivered something like that last week”)
  • 5. 'Share' meetingsPresent your recent analyses to each other Not only is it a chance for team members to hear what others are working onBut it gives analysts a chance to practice presentation skills, so they don’t have to from zero to presenting to an executive! 6. Build team relationshipsNo, you don’t have to do a bunch of trust falls or sing kumbayahsYou don’t have to be like, oh my god totally BFFsBut, there is a value in getting people together in a more relaxed atmosphere, and building pleasant working relationshipThe reality is, you will work together best you “have each other’s backs”
  • 3. Keep documentationYes it’s boring. Do it anyway. Document processes, data sets, what reports or analyses you deliver. A study from IQ Workforce found that digital measurement professionals move companies (not just new roles within a company, but actually move to a new organisation) ever 18 months! Documentation is critical when there’s a risk of that kind of turn over. 4. Maintain a central repositoryHaving a central place to store analytics work and deliverablesMight be a shared drive on your corporate network, a shared drop box folder, shared Google docs.Ideally searchableEven a doc that lists the analyses done with description is better than nothing
  • Remote teams are becoming more common, especially in digital, including digital analytics I worked from home for my last year with an agency with offices in three locations, and these are some of the ways I kept in touch with my team.
  • Be mindful of including remote employees. At Red Door, we even took ours out to happy hour with us! If you hold events for local employees, consider bringing remote employees into town, or providing them with a similar “treat” to ensure they feel included. It’s easy to feel isolated as a remote employee, and if events always exclude remote employees, you risk them ultimately feeling distant enough from the company that they find a new one.
  • Always, always, ALWAYS provide a way to join a meeting remotely, for every meeting, whether you think there’s someone remote involved or not Having to scramble for a way to dial in to a call at the last minute can be frustrating to remote employees, make them feel like an after thought, and lose precious time
  • Take advantage of the tools available
  • Tools like Yammer can be an internal social network, where you can communicate less formally, and “en masse” The best results I’ve seen from using Yammer have been “grass roots” – one person signs up for an account and invites a few others. Quickly, word spreads, and everyone wants to be included. You can use it to share interesting reads, what you’re working on right now, recent analyses – anything. And because it’s a private network, you can share information you wouldn’t post on Facebook or Twitter. You can even create groups so that you share information that pertains to a specific department.
  • Video chat can help remote employees feel more connected The irony, of course, is that often remote employees may be hesitant to video chat because, let’s be honest, we’re probably still in our pyjamas. But the benefits do outweight the onerous obligation of brushing your hair and throwing on a t-shirt.
  • While you can’t sit side by side and muddle through a problem, Screen Share can help remote co-workers collaborate. You’ll be looking at the same thing, and don’t need to do the typical “Okay, now look at cell 4A – okay, see that formula?” It makes collaboration and joint problem solving much easier.
  • So now – analysts don’t just work amongst themselves. How can you better communicate with other departments?
  • There’s this perception that analysts can stare at data and MAGICALLY find insights. Nope. (I wish) To provide value with Analytics requires a deep understanding of the business.
  • Why? Providing insight impossible without a clear understanding of business goals and initiativesWhat 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? Need context for insight! Otherwise, you end up with, “Look at this pretty report I made. It has charts.”
  • Get integratedYou HAVE to be integrated into the business and a critical part of other teams. And often, you and other teams may have complementary skills – e.g. analysts + user experience or customer service = the “what” and the “why” / quantitative + qualitative A great way to integrate better with other teams is co-location - Co-location: Location can play a big role in department integration. There are real benefits of sitting close to website product team rather than being sequestered with other analysts.In-office discussionsOverhearing phone conversationsLast minute “hey, you should come to this meeting” invitesDoes not have to be permanent – could co-locate a few days a weekIf co-location is not possible, think of other ways you can spend a lot of time with other teams and integrate yourself into them – e.g. frequently “status” meetings, etcEven remote teams can become more integrated via use of video conferencing, screen sharing, IM (etc)
  • Attend meetingsYes – you’re already busyBut – issues arise if analytics isn’t involved until it’s too lateNeed careful measurement strategy – make sure new measurement needs are accounted for, and current measurement is not interrupted Analysts can add insight early on – e.g. understand current experienceCan provide greater value if involved early onMake them look good If you give the business information that lets them make better decisions, or make them look better - they will want your help more and more(That doesn’t mean telling them ONLY what they want to hear) – it does mean to provide value and substance, be more than just a data cruncherIt does mean being proactive – identify what’s valuable, and provide it Don’t want for requestsDon’t stop at a “report”Provide what they need, but maybe don’t even know to ask for! You can do more than just crunch data.Ask questionsPropose ideas If you prove your value, you’ll quickly have the opposite problem – they’ll want you involved in everything
  • Build trustNeed correct dataAccurate informationSound conclusionsObviously, QA your workIf your analytics "Spidey sense" is tingling, don't share the data yet. Make sure you validate the data until you're certain it's correct.One way – answer the same question two ways, and see if the two methods lead to similar conclusions. But … Balance speed and accuracyBalancing speed and accuracy can be challenging. Analysts typically struggle with their desire for 100% certainty - executives' need for a quick turnaround that produces less certainty... say, 80%.Take the time to ensure confidence in the information you provide, but don't let the process turn into "analysis paralysis" and cripple you.
  • Focus on the big picture"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." – Albert EinsteinNo matter how complex a project might be, analysts need to be able to step back and explain it to someone who doesn't live and breathe analytics.I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve seen analysts present to an executive and use the words, “And then I used a v-lookup…” True story. As you work through your presentation, consider the level of detail you're providing: is it truly necessary to tell the story? Could you further simplify?Think back to high school or college, when you needed to write an essay that could be read and understood by someone unfamiliar with the topic. Communicating your data to executives is no differentConsider using the Dad Test: Could you simplify your findings enough to explain them to your dad?Your job is to use data to help solve a BUSINESS PROBLEM. Not just showing some math you did and ooooh, look, pretty numbers! Always bring it back to the business.
  • Use the right styleYou need to understand your audience. Every executive is different. The way that you present to the CFO, who might want to see more of "the math" to trust your work, might be different from the way that you present to the vice-president of Sales.Get to know whom you are presenting to and what style suits them. Though you need to focus on the big picture, be conscious of which executives might need to see a little more detail to feel comfortable relying on your analysis. This takes time, and that’s okay. You will have mis-steps. But learn from them and adjust your style next time. But there are also different styles of learning.Visual:Visual learners need to see it. These people may tune out what you say and focus on what’s on the slides. Or they may need to see charts, or another visual representation of the data. Auditory: Auditory learnersneed to hear it. May tune out what’s on the slides but listen to what you say. Your words will be more powerful for them than any visuals. So choose them wisely! Kinesthetic:Kinesthetic – these people need to feel it, to experience it for themselves. May need an example, a hypothetical customer story, or for you to walk them through a scenario to really get it. The challenge? Typically, you’re presenting to a group! So you need to cover the information in a way that appeals to ALL THREE styles in one presentation.So as you review your presentation prior to a meeting, look at it through the lens of each of these styles, to ensure you’ve adequately covered each one.
  • Know your stuffKnowing your business AND the data inside and out. Doesn't mean you need to have every data point for your business memorizedIt’s okay to say, "I'll get back to you on that”But you should know the critical metricsComes in handy to quickly answer “tangent questions” Example:I once worked with an executive vice-president who had a habit of asking tangential questions. They were reasonable questions, but not always entirely relevant. However, I quickly learned to ask myself while preparing, "What would [Fred] ask?" I then had that answer ready for when he did inevitably ask the anticipated question.That tactic had benefits. I was better prepared to answer questions, and I was able to gain trust. Moreover, because I was forced to think through other questions that might come up, I was better able to validate my analysis and my thinking.On a practical note, this tactic also helped keep meetings on track. When I could answer questions, we didn't get sidetracked from the overall purpose of the meeting, and we didn't have to put discussions on hold until I could answer those additional questions.Also, during chance encountersNew project & you bump into the CEO in the lunch room? You do yourself a favour if you can answer, “So, how’s X going?” off the top of your head.
  • We all work with partners – might be our vendors, our agencies, our consultants. Having been on both sides, here are a few tips.
  • Communicate early and often. The more a partner knows about your business, the better they can help you. Worst thing (for everyone) is time invested in recommendations or projects that don’t align with their business goals. Doesn’t just mean just a one-time communication when you start the engagement. You need to keep up constant contact with partners. Tell them about new initiatives, new channels you’re moving into, even minor site changes.
  • Open communication. If you need an NDA to communicate openly, get it. But failing to give a partner frank and honest information is setting them up to fail, and wasting your time and money in engaging them.You want your partners to operate as an extension of your company – they will do best when they know what you know. Share your priorities. Make sure that your partner understands your priorities. What is going to be most impactful for you? In what order should they tackle what?
  • I have worked on the client side and the agency side. But if you want to know more, THE MAN is Ben Gaines. He gave a fantastic presentation at Accelerate in San Francisco last year titled “10 Things Your Vendor Wishes You Did Better”, which he then later summarised in a blog post. I would steal it, but with all the tweeters in here, he’d know. So, I’d rather refer you to it. http://bit.ly/benislovelyYes, bit.ly / ben is lovely
  • So … what should you do when you walk out of here? What can YOU to improve communication in your organisation?
  • Take the initiative Don’t want for your boss to set things up – if these things aren’t coming from the top, do what you can. That may not be everything, but it’s something. Set up informal team meetings in the kitchen over coffeeBefriend people in other departments – schedule regular lunches, coffee or happy hourDoing so will allow you to get the inside scoop on what those departments are working on and to identify areas where analytics could add valueUse bribery! Need something from another team? Make sure they know you appreciate their hard work (for YOUR deadline) by bringing in treats I once worked with a VERY busy enterprise datawarehouse team. Much as I hate doing it, I often had to ask them for things in ridiculously short timeframes. So, I would bring in cookies, or chips, or take them out for beers or lunch. Not just at the time I was making a request, but randomly. I truly appreciated how hard they worked to get things done that helped me. I became friends with them. And I was responsive – I replied when they had questions, I attended their daily stand ups. And you know what? When they came to prioritise their work, mine often got prioritised. I don’t think it’s entirely bribery, I just think people will naturally do their best for someone they have a good relationship with. It’s like that teacher you loved in high school – you worked harder because you wanted to please them. You can’t do everything. Some support does need to come from your boss, or your bosses’ boss, or other departments. But don’t forget, you can bring back this plan! You can sell others on how better communication will help you all.
  • Any questions?

The Most Undervalued Analytics Tool: Communication Presentation Transcript

  • 1. THE MOST UNDERVALUED ANALYTICS TOOL? COMMUNICATION MICHELE KISS @MICHELEJKISS VP, DIGITAL ANALYTICS GRAND CIRCLE TRAVEL
  • 2. “What is the most undervalued analytics tool?” @MICHELEJKISS
  • 3. COMMUNICATION @MICHELEJKISS
  • 4. @MICHELEJKISS
  • 5. @MICHELEJKISS
  • 6. SOUND FAMILIAR? @MICHELEJKISS
  • 7. COMMUNICATING Within your team of analysts With other departments With executives With partners/vendors/age ncies/consultants @MICHELEJKISS
  • 8. COMMUNICATING WITHIN YOUR TEAM @MICHELEJKISS
  • 9. COMMUNICATING WITHIN YOUR TEAM
  • 10. Talk to each other Daily standup @MICHELEJKISS
  • 11. Regular “sharing” meetings Build team relationships @MICHELEJKISS
  • 12. Documentation Maintain central library @MICHELEJKISS
  • 13. COMMUNICATION IN A REMOTE TEAM @MICHELEJKISS
  • 14. Social media
  • 15. Video Chat
  • 16. Screen Share
  • 17. COMMUNICATION BETWEEN DEPARTMENTS @MICHELEJKISS
  • 18. Magical insights – just add data! @MICHELEJKISS
  • 19. Insight requires understanding GOALS @MICHELEJKISS
  • 20. Get integrated Location, location, location @MICHELEJKISS
  • 21. Attend meetings Make them look good @MICHELEJKISS
  • 22. COMMUNICATING WITH EXECUTIVES @MICHELEJKISS
  • 23. Build trust Balance speed and accuracy @MICHELEJKISS
  • 24. Focus on the big picture “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” - Albert Einstein @MICHELEJKISS
  • 25. Use the right (and multiple!) styles Visual Auditory Kinesthetic @MICHELEJKISS
  • 26. Know your stuff @MICHELEJKISS
  • 27. COMMUNICATING WITH PARTNERS @MICHELEJKISS
  • 28. Communicate early … and often. @MICHELEJKISS
  • 29. Open communication Share your priorities @MICHELEJKISS
  • 30. Want more? Ten Things Your Vendor Wishes You Did Better http://bit.ly/benislovely
  • 31. WHAT NOW? @MICHELEJKISS
  • 32. TAKE THE INITIATIVE @MICHELEJKISS
  • 33. @MICHELEJKISS