5 Things an Analytics Leader Must Do To Make Analysts Happy

bizanalystAnalysts are the lifeblood of a successful, data-driven company.  The analysts within your organization are usually the first to figure out if the company is on track or off track of the goals.  Their happiness can lead to early warnings and quick action to avoid pitfalls.  Their happiness can also help drive innovation and much needed change.

It is essential to keep your analysts happy.  Whether they are part of a corporate insights team, or are a line of business analyst with sales or marketing, there a few things a leader can do to help make them happy.

Trust & Enable, Don’t Dictate – The best leaders lead through influence and enablement, not micro management and total control.   Trust is one of the most important virtues of a team and is a true symbol of teamwork.  When a leader can let things go and let the judgment, experience, and knowledge of their analysts work, phenomenal things happen.

Celebrate Wins, big and small – Analysts have complex and very important roles in every organization. Analysts work hard, very often in sprints at quarter end and quarter begin. For this reason, take the time to help your analysts celebrate.  From cupcakes and beverages in a conference room, to an off-site cart race, let your analysts cut-loose and have fun.

Give Credit – Nothing makes an analyst more upset than another analyst or person taking credit for their work.  Just like recognition helps drive the morale of a sales rep, giving credit to your analyst when and where it counts is a simple act with profound effect.

Freestyle Project Time – Work hard, play hard.  Let your analysts take a few hours each week to work on something they want to related to work.  Whether they want to work on a new data model, an insights project, or attend an online, self service class, give them the time to do something they feel is important to their role.  A few hours each week to work on a project of their choosing enhances creativity and innovation.

Establish a Vision, But Seek Input – As all leaders are responsible for establishing a vision and trajectory for the team, this vision must be based on input from the team.  Allow the team to develop their own mission statement, their own framework, and be the guide to steer them toward corporate goals.   A vision developed by team input is unstoppable.

As an analytical leader, you have a responsibility to keep your analysts happy.  Happy analysts are key to driving data driven change in any organization.   Allow them to flourish, be creative, innovate and share their passion with the organization.

But wait, a sixth BONUS tip

Conference Budget – Allow your analysts to attend one or two conferences of their choosing every year.  Conferences are not only learning opportunities, but also incredible networking opportunities.  An analyst meeting another analyst is like a match made in heaven.  Let your analysts out of the office and share knowledge as much as possible.

Top 5 Best Practices for Rolling Out Sales Rep Scorecards

Sales rep scorecards are that golden unicorn of any sales organization.  The scorecard is a compilation of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which are measured against thresholds.  In a rep scorecard, we see a visual interpretation of how a rep is doing for each of the KPIs. An example of which is below:

A Simple Sales Rep Scorecard with three KPIs

Sample Sales Rep Scorecard

Before I dive into best practices, a word on why not a lot of sales organizations have scorecards.  The primary reason is due to organizations struggling with data which best represents the business which makes it difficult for them to setup a KPI, let alone establish effective targets.   An understanding of the analytics continuum is also helpful for understanding the evolution of data practices which need to met prior to rolling out KPIs and Scorecards:

The Analytics Continuum: a blueprint for adoption

Top 5 Best Practices for Sales Rep Scorecards

  • Sales reps, Mangers, VPs, and CROs must all have agreement on the KPI definition, targets, and thresholds.  If one level of the KPI hierarchy is not on the same page as the others, there is very value in using the Scorecard to represent an ideal.
  • Targets and thresholds must be reasonable.  When rolling out KPIs, we often realize that actual performance is far from the corporate ideal. For instance, a Sales Cycle of 45 days is thought to be ideal, but the rep actual is north of 60 days.  Don’t hold this against them, consider rolling out a target of 55 and stepping the target down to 45 days within three quarters of launch.  Be kind to the reps and allow them to catch up.
  • Scorecards must be part of a larger sales communication strategy.  Rolling out a scorecard alone will have an impact on the organization, but the most impressive will happen if scorecards are a part of the larger communication strategy.  For instance, a weekly email can call out wins by reps, it should call out performance, and it needs to call out what needs to be done to hit the goal.  Scorecards are just one piece of the story in sales.
  • Scorecards need to be updated as the business evolves.  Scorecards can never be truly static, recurring reports.  Part of the role of your analytical team is maintain reports as the business changes and evolves.  Scorecards are no different.  From a subtle change of keeping thresholds and targets up to date, to swapping out KPIs for new ones, scorecards are a living animal and requires food to stay alive.
  •  Scorecards are a coaching opportunity, not a punishment tool.  While HR and managers will look at a scorecard and see a rep with all red for their KPIs, this doesn’t mean the rep needs to immediately be put on a performance improvement plan or, worse yet, fired.  Scorecards are coaching tool and enable the manager to work with the sales rep and ask questions like “why do you think your sales cycle is double the average?”  Work with the rep, train the rep, and allow the rep the chance to go for green.

As your team rolls out scorecards across the sales organization, keep these best practices in mind.  Be kind to your reps, get agreement on definition, use scorecards as part of a larger strategy, keep them updated, and use them as a coaching tool.

Need a Sales Team Dashboard?

Monitoring your sales team is a major part of success.  Sales managers and executives need a simplified media to review key performance indicators KPIs to understand how their sales team is performing.

Such a simplified media is a dashboard style report which includes both charts and data tables which report KPIs pertinent to the business.   In a for profit business, typically revenue generation is at the top of the KPI list, followed by product performance, rep performance, and then rep productivity metrics.

Example Sales Team Management Dashboard

Spiral Analytics’ Example Sales Team Management Dashboard – Available for $5 through Fiverr

Since simple is good, Spiral Analytics, the name of my analytics solution company, is offering a gig through Fiverr.  The $5 Gig provides a basic template and setup for a sales team dashboard which follow the metrics above.  Additional charts and the ability to maintain the dashboard for you are available at additional charge.  For more information, check out the Gig below.

Spiral Analytics Sales Team Dashboard on Fiverr

Why Hierarchies of Data in a Business Matter

thData, business, sales, insights, and revenue are popular keywords found in abundance around the internet these days.  As a Founder of my own company, I can certainly understand the need to focus on such keywords in daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly discussions.

But, as a Data Analyst, not all keywords are created equal for each role in the company.  Let’s simplify and break the business hierarchies down to three levels, which have a direct impact on how data can be used:

  1. Executives: The top of the chain that defines long-term strategy, implementation, and overall decision making.
  2. Manager: The mid-level staff responsible for action of strategy, interfacing between the needs to the subordinates and the Executive teams.
  3. Operational: The largest population of the business with the responsibility to make it happen by pushing the buttons, interfacing with customers, and carrying out decisions hour by hour.

This three tier pyramid of decision making in a business is streamlined to illustrate key areas that any serious Data Analyst should have Continue reading

What Makes a KPI Special

A key performance indicator (KPI) is a vital tool for an organization seeking grow smart profits, expand customer loyalty, and build a scalable workforce.  While many companies stick a chronological set of numbers on a chart to project it on a wall in front of stakeholders, the reality is what they are seeing may not be a true KPI.   Its just a number unless its special.

To be special, the number needs to have most of the following characteristics in common:

  1. Represents a hierarchy either by time, or by dimension
    1.  Example: Sales broken by Year, Quarter, Month, Week or even day, then sliced by Sales Region
  2. Directly actionable with each stakeholder holding a piece of the action.
    1. Example: Sales are down 15% from goal, Sales Managers, Marketing Coordinators, etc can all speak to how their actions influenced the number
  3. Has  common definition across departments throughout the company
    1. Example: A sale is an action by a user from a variety of channels and promotions that resulted in payment and excludes affiliates for instance.  This definition is signed off by Marketing, Customer Service, Sales, and Product.
  4. Does not include hidden meaning and/or does not hide a trend
    1. Example: A number compared year over year, month over month completely ignores a trend that can be alarming.  While sales could be up year over year, this metric could hide a sudden drop in sales from the beginning of the year.
  5. When displayed with other metrics on a dashboard, the number represents a part of the story and does not represent a conflict to other metrics.
    1. Example: A number is where a chart shows Sales sky-rocketing, but another chart shows New Revenue way down, and yet another charts show Average Deal Size (ADS) flat.  The three charts give conflicting information, so one or more can’t be a true KPI for this business.  In fact, in this case, Sales is the corrupted KPI as it does not conform to a standardized definition.
  6. Supporting data is transparent
    1. Example: Analysts should be able to review aggregate data that rolls up to the KPI for audit reasons.  It provides transparency and allows for drill down capabilities. Often the Analysts receive direct support from a data team are sourced from data sources throughout the business.
  7. The number evolves with the business
    1. Example: A number is just a number unless it can change readily with the business. A team supports the KPI, new data is added when created, and definitions evolve as the understanding of the business evolves.
  8. A goal can easily be set and tracked from the number
    1. Example: If the number is fully understood, a goal can be set and tracked against.  If you can’t answer, “Where do we need to be by the end of the Year?”, then its a number, not a KPI.

Throughout my career, I’ve seen numbers and I’ve seen KPI’s.  The most successful companies I worked with not only have a data team to support their KPIs, but they engage in regular discussions of the KPIs at all levels of the business.  Successful, scalable, and profitable businesses are the ones using special numbers at their core.

When was the last time you saw a number masquerading as a KPI?

Working With Data

Data is the future.  The future will continue to see an explosion of data collection and an increasing need to digest it.  This is what the industry refers to as “big data.”   The ability of one company to collect, analyze and take action on large amounts of data can be a serious game changer in the marketplace.

Any stakeholder who seeks to be successful in their role will leverage data.  Given the imperfections of our world, the stakeholder may have access to a limited data set.  While the stakeholder recognizes their need for clean, accessible data, the IT and BI teams may be months away from delivering.

The stakeholder has has two choices: 1) throw up their arms, complain about the data and cause a ruckus, or 2) work with the data they have and make the best of the situation.

Throwing Up Their Arms

“The data is wrong!” yells the marketing analyst sitting in a meeting with IT and BI teams.   The IT and BI managers shrug their shoulders and reply, “then tell us what is right.”   The marketing analyst bangs her fist on the conference table in frustration.

Bottom line, stakeholders who don’t embrace even the worst data, does not understand how to measure their business.  I’ve seen exchanges between BI and stakeholders where data has been subjected to strict QA by the stakeholder, but the stakeholder has never referred to the data as wrong.

Work With the Data

Every stakeholder interested in a data set needs to have the long term picture of the business in mind and understand the KPIs and other metrics involved to manage their part of the business.  All data used in analysis are typically seen through the lens of the business KPI which provides the context.  Chances are a stakeholder would never accept a data set that is so far from the truth to be useless.

Based on my career, the best course of action is to work with the data you have.  Granted you might not be able to answer more complex business questions, but you will start a journey along a road that will get you there.  Take the data you have and create three lists:

  1. parts of the data set that works for your requirements
  2. parts of the data set that should be modified
  3. parts of the data set that are important, but not pertinent to the requirements

Your goal is to understand the ins and outs of the data you have and create a constructive list of actions that evolve your knowledge and the data set into a market changing analysis. Providing documentation on to help the IT and BI teams evolve your data and turn into your pot of gold is the best course of action.

Data is Not Static and Neither is Your Knowledge

Keep in mind that as you interact with data, ask questions, build more detailed documentation and draw correlations or disassociations, your data will have to change to follow your in-depth understanding. This is why maintaining a positive relationship with the team that you rely on is so important.

Iterations of data sets can be subtle and they can also be large.  Just remember, that the data you had for version 1 is NOT wrong compared to version 2.  When reflecting back on version 1, understand where you came from and that you are looking at a less evolved set of data.  Then you can laugh when you look at version 3 and wonder how you managed the business with version 1.

Working with data is an awesome thing.  It should be a fun, productive journey for both the analyst, IT team, BI team, and all stakeholders involved.   When you here the word “wrong” come up, defend the evolution of data and point out that perfect data sets don’t come out of thin air.

Training Dashboard Iteration #1 | TrainingMetrix

I thought I would show off a triathlon training dashboard that incorporates all aspects of performance at a high level.  The back end to this is proprietary, but it illustrates the importance of looking at the larger picture when achieving peak performance is crucial.

Iteration #1 – TrainingMetrix Analytic Performance Dashboard

There are six key pieces of information in the above dashboard for the athlete to digest (from top left, clockwise):

  • Weight and TM Performance score.
  • TM Performance Score
  • Daily Workout Score Plot
  • Upcoming Events
  • TM Performance Variable
  • Weekly Goals

How do all of these pieces of information work together? Well, in the above dashboard, you can see a customized example of a triathlete that is rather inconsistent with their training, their life, and therefore their weight and performance score are trending in the wrong direction. This triathlete needs to focus on:

  • Consistency of workouts, which will help reduce their life and workout scores
  • Eating a consistent healthy diet, reducing their nutrition score

Focusing on these two variables, the triathlete can then start tracking toward improved performance and reduce their TrainingMetrix Performance Score.

Dashboards apply to much more than just business related use cases. Fitness and triathlon training can benefit greatly from a well designed dashboard showing analysis from comprehensive data collection. TrainingMetrix (the company I recently founded) is one of the most comprehensive fitness tracking solutions on the market. I developed it from my three years of triathlon training. For more information, visit http://www.trainingmetrix.com