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ALC Insights: Funding and Budget

The Analytics Leadership Consortium’s (ALC) Q3 theme on Funding and Budgets focused on three aspects: establishing and justifying value, sourcing funds, and allocating budget. While many valuable points came through in our confidential discussions, two ideas stuck out. First, communicating good work is key and, second, it’s beneficial to operate like a startup and create targeted delivery teams.

Scott Friesen, EVP of Strategic Analytics at Echo Global Logistics, and a guest speaker at the ALC, said it best in one sentence spanning two ideas, “Do good work and tell people about the work.” In the context of justifying value, it’s not enough to do work well; it is important to focus on work that is strategically important or that will have a tangible business impact. Further, many individuals in analytics fail to get buy-in because they do not sufficiently communicate the work that they do or the impact that they have created. Culturally, some people feel more comfortable than others in sharing their work and taking credit for projects, but regardless of someone’s comfort level, communicating projects and results is a crucial part of establishing and justifying value for analytics.

Two prominent examples of tools to communicate internally include publishing written materials and hosting in-person events. Internal newsletters are a popular way to spread the word about successes and ongoing projects. One benefit of newsletters is that they can slowly shape the general conversation and understanding of what the analytics organization is involved in. Separate from a newsletter, some analytics organizations put on in-person events to spread the word about projects, initiatives, and successes internally.

A second key idea from the Q3 theme on funding and budgets is to operate like a startup by creating small teams focused on delivery in a specific area. Each team should have an executive sponsor from the business unit, and these teams are spooled up for a specific project. These teams exist for as long as they deliver value, but when there is greater opportunity for impact elsewhere, then the teams are dissolved and reformed as needed. Dissolving these teams and turning them onto the next project is one of the biggest challenges of this model. However, one of the main benefits of this model is that it allows groups to think big but start small. This, in turn, helps teams go after high-value projects while also asking what the first step could look like and how this early stage will generate value.

One of the more famous examples of this approach comes from Amazon’s notion of two-pizza teams, where internal teams should be as small as possible in order to foster collaboration and always small enough to be fed by no more than two pizzas. Outside of Amazon, many organizations have adopted variations of this approach that each come with their own strength, such as internal consulting teams or targeted delivery teams. Operating like a startup in this way came up as a key idea in the discussion on sourcing funds because it creates a situation where other business branches are invested in the outcomes of analytics projects through delivery teams. As a result, executives beyond the analytics organization become stakeholders and advocates for the analytics budget.

These ideas came from conversations in the ALC, a private network of senior analytics executives from a diverse set of industries who meet monthly to share and discuss best practices and discover and develop analytics innovation in a private and confidential setting. ALC members meet for the express purpose of improving the business impact of analytics at their firms. You can learn more about the ALC here.