There’s a reason why the previous step (Step 2) recommended reflecting on what types of data might be required and where they could come from instead of leaving it to be something for a newly formed analytics team to run with. Understanding where the source data might lie provides a valuable input towards starting to build a project team.

Step 3: Identify an owner/leader for the analytics programme.

Although several surveys have revealed that getting into business analytics is high on the agenda of many organizations these days there are still many that have not actually done very much in this space yet. One of the reasons for this may be a lack of clarity on how to start up and organize a team to plan and execute the activity. This isn’t very surprising.

Applying business analytics successfully involves the coming together of at least three types of expertise. A strong understanding of the business domain, business processes and data used in the problem area is one. Expertise in applied statistics and the ability to interpret numbers and outputs is another, and of course, some expertise in a key enabler for large parts of it – information technology, especially as it is required to source and integrate the right data. It’s uncommon to find a single person or persons who each have all of these capabilities, and so a team usually needs to be formed.

In addition, it may well turn out to be that the data required for analytics may not only come from multiple sources, but that the sources themselves may have owners from different parts of the business. Aside from this, the collection, storage and management of data may be within the control of the IT function. The analytics initiative may itself be owned either by an independent analytics team, or it may be a part of a business unit, or even the IT function.

The bottom line is that the number and disparity of data sources, who the owners are of those sources, and how much ambiguity or fuzziness the project team will need to deal with are all factors that will all help describe the kind of owner and leader the analytics initiative may require in order to be successful. An analytics project owner will very likely need to be not just a good leader with a technical understanding of either statistics, IT or the business, but also be strong in terms of the soft skills that will be required to coordinate and work with staff from multiple functions to get together whatever data, know-how, review inputs and decisions the analytics team may need. Finally, the leader needs to be able to convincingly present the output and findings of his team so that the business buys into those results and continues to actually use on a continuous basis the models that are deployed.

Finally, leading an analytics initiative is a full time job. It requires a leader who is either already a specialist in analytics or is committed (by his organization as well) towards becoming one. Half-hearted commitment and part time leadership will not be adequate in a discipline in which getting useful business results takes focus, expertise and a lot of hard work.

Once the right owner has been identified, the rest of the team can then be put together. That’s a subject that will be dealt with in the next blog in this series.