We recently introduced Ana the Analytics Champion, a bold problem-solver who helps uncover insights that enable businesses to make better data-driven decisions with confidence. Analytics leaders like Ana hold different roles across various industries but share a common goal of delivering value for their organizations, their teams, and their customers through data insights.
To learn what thought leaders in analytics think about what makes an Analytics Champion – and the attributes that lead to their success, we asked DJ Patil, former U.S. Chief Data Scientist, and Claudia Imhoff, a nationally recognized analytics expert, to share their thoughts.
Two sides of a champion
Championship golfers and tennis players don’t play on a team in the traditional sense, but they do have a team behind them that contributes to their success. Analytics Champions are in a similar role, they are unique in what they bring to the table, but their success also depends on how they assemble and work with the teams they build around them.
DJ says this means bringing together analysts and business owners to give context to the problem they are solving with analytics. “Most of the time data people don’t have context,” said DJ. “If you’re getting called in without any context, you’re going to be handed a problem, and that’s where we see frustration.” He says every Analytics Champion should have a template for what successful teams look like to deliver the most value with analytics, technology, and subject matter expertise.
DJ describes the other side of the champion as the storyteller. He jokes about a common scenario in which an analyst will show a chart to stakeholders and say, “as you can see in this chart….”. In reality, it’s often not at all clear what the data visualizations really mean or how they are actionable. DJ says it’s important for Analytics Champions to bridge the gap between collecting and analyzing data and presenting it in a way that is understandable and valuable – or as we like to call it, data storytelling.
A champion’s view of AI
Analytics Champions will increasingly play a role in the use of AI technologies in their organization. As they do, DJ and Claudia agree they should view AI as an asset, rather than a threat. They both say how the technology is used today — to help workers rather than replace them — means the “A” in AI represents augmented, not artificial intelligence.
“I’m fundamentally in the camp of augmentation,” said DJ. “I’m excited about the idea of augmentation to help me be more efficient and take away the boring problems.” Claudia agrees and says we are still far from having true artificial intelligence. “What we have is augmented intelligence – what that means is the ability to help make an analyst more productive, to point out discrepancies or trends in the data,” said Claudia. “It’s like having a really smart helper but does not replace the individual.”
Governing self-service analytics
In a world of increasing governance and highly regulated industries, Analytics Champions must balance the importance of data access and democratization with data governance.
Claudia says it’s important for Analytics Champions to first define the meaning of self-service analytics to create a context for governance. “Self-service analytics is the environment that enables business users to become self-reliant and less dependent on IT,” says Claudia. She says it doesn’t mean self-sufficient analytics, where analysts are building a siloed instance outside without IT oversight.
DJ says rather than writing down rules and processes for data governance, it’s important to address questions about the business culture. “Most of this fails on cultural issues, not technical issues, it’s a human problem at the end of the day,” says DJ.
What makes a successful Analytics Champion?
Analytics Champions aren’t defined by their degrees, titles or certifications alone. They are leaders who bridge the gap between raw data and informed decisions. Claudia says there are two attributes that are especially important for Analytics Champions to succeed.
Analytics Champions should focus first and foremost on data literacy and self-service analytics according to Claudia. “They should make sure that everyone in their organization understands what the data is, how to use it, and when to use it,” says Claudia. “They should make sure everyone in the organization has access to and uses analytics instead of flying by the seat of their pants.” Just as important, says Claudia, is making the results of data insights easy to consume and easy to enhance.
Second, Claudia says champions should recognize that data and analytic results should be viewed as valuable company assets. “Just like traditional assets like buildings or products are being used appropriately across the enterprise,” said Claudia, “it should be no different for analytic assets.”
To hear more from DJ and Claudia and other data experts about accelerating your analytics journey, we encourage you to visit “The Path to Becoming an Analytics Champion”.