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Insight capability - get the most from your data and analytics

When do you know your insight capability needs improving? When a deadline is approaching and you need to finish a presentation to your boss or an important senior figure. You scamper around trying to pull together all the information necessary to make a great impression. You need some stats for the fifth slide in your deck and send a request over to the analyst team. You may or may not get the insight back in time, but it doesn’t matter because your boss was late and you only had time to give a summary. Meanwhile the analyst team is trying to field similar types of request from all over the business, juggling their priorities, stopping and starting projects, generally getting quite frustrated. Ultimately such requests don’t bring much value to the business at all. And most of the time its those at the top who make them. The analyst team doesn’t like to say no to such people, it's difficult to. So the juggling continues.

Organisations like this have to recognise their level of insight capability: what they’re doing wrong and what they need to change. As a result their teams of analysts will concentrate on delivering answers to the most important questions that will transform the fortunes of the business. This means that leaders need to set an example and focus on what’s really going to make a difference, rather than just asking for a number or information that proves a point they’ve already come up with.

How to do that? Adopt this simple approach:

1. Define the business problem

Einstein once said that if he had an hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.

So here’s how you can do that.

Firstly define the context, the situation from which the problem arose. What’s happening in the market, what’s happening with your performance? Capturing this information is vital when it comes to briefing the people who are going to find the information needed to solve the problem. It allows them to come back with an answer that’s framed relevantly

Secondly, set a clearly and measureable objective for what you want to achieve. It’s so important that you consider the measurability of the objective, as this will drive the analytical and reporting approach later on.

Thirdly, define the customer behaviour change you want to happen in order to achieve your objective. Think about the various scenarios that exist in which customers behave differently to achieve the objective. Customers rarely behave according to the exact scenario process or journey you define for them.

2. Gather existing knowledge 

In this step you need to figure out what relevant information and insight capability already exists within the organisation such as: data about current business performance, customer behaviour or market conditions. This can help: further define the problem, help you understand what gaps of knowledge exist and even go some way to solving the problem.

Actually in some cases the process should stop here because you find a pre-existing report which provides an complete enough answer to the problem. The challenge lies in making it easy to find such reports, training the organisation to look for them and for the analyst team to understand their contents. Worse case scenario; the analyst team wastes time producing a report to answer a question when a perfectly good one already exists. Before you know it, this behaviour breeds a report creation frenzy, until suddenly the organisation has entire husk of reports, which some poor soul is asked to consolidate several years down the line!

Once you have gathered all relevant knowledge about the challenge, you're in a great position to prioritise it, using justifiable objective evidence before moving on to the third step.

3. Determine what you think you need in addition to solve your problem

This can be tricky, as you aren’t always going to know exactly what you need to solve challenge. The enablers that you'll need at this stage can be broken down broadly into: data, technology and skills. Every organisation will have these enablers in place but to varying degrees of integrity, readiness, availability and capability. So naturally many organisations ask for a second opinion at this point to ensure they’ve covered their bases.

A common mistake is to ask for ‘all the data’. This just prolongs the process it takes to refine it down into something meaningful. Work closely with analytical experts to ensure you ask for what you need, and only what you need.

4. Put it all into a comprehensive insight brief

Ideally there’s a standardised briefing process in place, but we’ve found that it’s often the content of the brief that’s lacking. If you’ve gone through steps one to three and noted down the key information at each step, then pulling it all into a brief should be just a matter of course.

As a result your analyst team will be empowered to do a far more effective job at delivering exactly what the business needs first time, reducing iterations back and forth.

What's your customer insight capability like?

If you’re reading this and are in a business that follows this type of approach or has recently adopted something similar, let us know how it’s working for you.