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The Chief Analytics Officer Takes Center Stage

The Chief Analytics Officer Takes Center Stage

From coast to coast, the business world is lauding the emergence of the Chief Analytics Officer (CAO). That's right, we said Chief ANALYTICS Officer. Perhaps you were thinking about that other C-level role that recently dominated the headlines - the Chief Data Officer? Nope, the CDO is so 2015. Despite it being called the hottest job of the 21stcentury, it seems a new contender has entered the fray, that of the CAO.

All joking aside, the role of CDO has certainly not lost any of its luster; it remains an important position within the enterprise, it's just that the CAO has now become just as significant. While both roles will need to coexist side-by-side, they face similar challenges, many of which were common themes during two recent industry events. Just looking at the massive turnout and the passionate discussions coming out of the Chief Analytics Officer Forum in New York and the Chief Data & Analytics Officer Exchange in California, it is apparent that the CAO will play a pivotal role in utilizing the modern organization's greatest asset - data.

IDC predicts that the market for big data technology and services will grow at a 27% clip annually through 2017 - about six times faster than the overall IT market. But that windfall is not just going towards ways to obtain more data, it's about investing in the right strategies to help make sense of data - an increasingly common perspective. Therefore, everyone is trying to figure out how to scale their analytical approach and drive more value across the organization.

Data alone is no longer the focal point for businesses, not without analytics to accompany it.
Michael Goldberg, Content Marketing Director, Dun & Bradstreet

Data alone is no longer the focal point for businesses, not without analytics to accompany it. We're seeing the term 'data analytics' popping up more frequently. In fact, it's the number one investment priority for Chief Analytics Officers over the next 12-24 months according to a Chief Analytics Officer Forum survey. That means an increased investment in data analytics and predictive analytics software tools. Not surprisingly, with the increased investment planned around these initiatives, the ability for data analytics to meet expectations across the company is the number one thing keeping CAO's up at night, according to the same study.

The lively discussions during the course of both events featured some of the industry's smartest minds discussing common challenges and objectives. Here are some of the most prevalent topics that were discussed.

  • The Need for C-Level Support: Very similar to the challenge facing the CDO, the CAO will need to secure buy-in from the C-level to make a real impact. Many speakers at both events expressed similar frustrations with getting the C-level to provide them the budget and resources needed to do their jobs. A good approach to take shared during one session was to build a business case which clearly quantifies the business value analytics will drive against specific goals. If you can tie everything back to ROI, you will have the ears of the CEO.
  • Breaking Down Silos: Even if you have attained support from the C-level, it is critical to partner with cross-functional departments. Whether it's sales, marketing, finance, etc., tying the business value that analytics can drive to their specific goals will help the work relationship. These teams need to feel they are being included in your work. This theme was evident in many sessions, with speakers giving examples how they partnered with their colleagues to influence their business strategy and turn insights into action. At the end of the day, analytics is only as good as the data you have, and you need to ensure you are leveraging all of it across the enterprise.
  • Becoming a Storyteller: It was widely acknowledged that 80-85 percent of business executives who claim to understand analytics actually don't. Hence the need to be able to simplify the message is critical to your success. There was a lot of discussion around what encompasses being a better storyteller. Being able to stay on point, avoiding technical jargon, relying on words versus numbers, and clearly quantifying and measuring business value were agreed upon paths to help the analytics group clearly communicate with the C-level.
  • Building the Right Team: Of all the discussions during both events, this was one of the most prominent themes and one of the biggest challenges shared by attendees. Where do you find the right talent? Views ranged from outsourcing and offshoring strategies to partnering with universities to develop a combined curriculum for undergrads and graduate students.

Everyone agreed the right candidate should have 4 distinct skills:

  • Quant skills, i.e. math/stats qualification
  • Business acumen
  • Coding skills/visualization
  • Communication and consulting skills

Since it is very difficult to find all four skills in a single person, the consensus was the perfect analytics team should consist of 3 tiers of analytics resources that should be thought through when building a team:

  • Statisticians, modelers and PhDs
  • Computer scientists
  • Measurement and reporting

From talent to strategy, the past two analytics-focused events underline the importance of employing a CAO in the enterprise. As data and analytics continue to be the core drivers of business growth, the CAO will not only need a prominent seat at the table, they will need the freedom and resources to help turn analytics into actionable insights for the entire enterprise.

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