Best Practices for Analyst Augmentation

by Tara Landry

According to a recent report from NewVantage Partners, “Big Data and AI Executive Survey 2019 87.8% of respondents report a greater urgency to invest in data analytics, with 91.6% stating they are increasing the pace of their big data investments. However, 71.7% of firms report that they have yet to forge a data culture and 52.4% of firms claim that they are not competing on data and analytics.

There are two solutions to this issue. The first is to build a top-notch in-house analytics department – a time consuming and expensive task where actionable results won’t be seen for months. The second solution, the one more and more marketing leaders are implementing, or planning to implement, involves looking outside their organizations. This is evidenced by a recent statistic that states in 2019, the Global Data Analytics Outsourcing Market was valued at $3.04 billion, and it is expected to reach $9.46 billion by 2025 at CAGR of 21.5% (2020-2025) SOURCE

Whether you refer to it as Analyst Augmentation, Analyst On-Demand, Analytics Outsourcing or some other variation, the practice of hiring an outside organization tasked with supplying the executive intelligence and insight you can’t generate in-house is growing at a dramatic rate. 

However, though analyst augmentation provides exceptional benefits and is the best option for organizations who do not have the time or resources to build an analytics team of their own, as with any time you bring a new service provider or consultant into your enterprise, there are associated risks. 

Here are some best practices you can follow to mitigate these risks and challenges:

Identify Key Decision Makers and Stakeholders.

This seemingly easy decision can have an immense impact on the analyst augmentation project. Gathering the right team on your side is imperative.  Keep in mind, two dedicated stakeholders means one successful analyst.  Identifying an operational stakeholder to manage and support work and timing, and an executive sponsor to support direction and strategy will ensure the best possible impact of data on the business.

Considering access and buy-in is also critical.   Data roles are unique in that they require access to both the technology team and the lines of business in order to be successful.  Good working relationships with your IT team will ensure that quality and consistent data is being created and connected to identify the most important objectives. 

Determine your Requirements 

Before you even start looking for a provider you should determine your requirements. By doing this in advance you’ll be better able to ask the right questions when you do start the selection process, to ensure you hire the company that is going to give you what you need. 

Have discussions with your key decision-makers and stakeholders, Ask and answer the question “what decisions need to be made as soon as possible which will have the most substantial impact on our organization”. Once you have established your business objectives, work with these same people to determine their reporting requirements so these can also be brought to your discussions with providers.

Another key point to consider at this stage is what you see as the role of your enterprise in the project. For example, are you highly involved at the beginning, (the discovery phase) and then, once the provider has the information they need, you fade into the background until the results are in or the project completed? Do you want to have a project manager or an IT person from your side included on the project team? Knowing the level of involvement your firm is looking for can also ensure you are asking the right questions when “interviewing” your provider. 

Research the Provider

Selecting the right company to work with is crucial. Often when we have a problem we focus solely on solving it and don’t spend enough time looking at who is solving it. Take some time to find out about the provider before jumping directly into the project specifics to ensure they have the experience and expertise to match your needs.  

Some important questions to ask (and then verify):

  • How long have they been in business?
  • Do they have a track record of working with organizations similar to yours? If you are a fortune 500 company, a provider with a client list made up of small businesses may not be the best choice.
  • Do they have a track record of projects similar to yours?
  • Do they use the latest technologies and solutions? 
  • What is their analyst retention rate? (A company that can’t keep their employees happy often has trouble keeping their clients happy).
  • Will specific analysts be dedicated to your enterprise, or will you be dealing with someone different at every turn?
  •  Do they follow best practices? If so, make sure they can provide you with a clear definition of these. “Best practices” can be a buzzword, so make sure to ask follow-up questions. 
  • Where are they located? This might not be an issue, but it could have an impact on communication and the quality and scope of collaboration. These days, many businesses have no boundaries, however, if you select a company on the other side of the world, it’s important to ensure language and working hours won’t become barriers to success. 

IMPORTANT! 

What should always be the number one factor when selecting a provider for analyst augmentation is determining if they are trustworthy, and possess integrity with a Capital I. Remember, you are entrusting them with what is arguably your most important asset – your data. The biggest risk associated with analyst augmentation is confidentiality and the risk of exposing sensitive organizational data. Find out what processes they follow to ensure your intellectual property is protected and your data is secure. 

Define the Relationship/Project

Look for a Good Listener

Remember, the companies you are approaching for Analyst Augmentation are selling themselves. More than likely they are going to steer the conversation to what they do best and often that involves telling you what you should be doing instead of using your specific requirements to show you how they can help you achieve your goals. Make sure they can address your concerns. Make sure what you want to accomplish and what “finished” looks like to you is communicated and understood by them. 

A good listener is one that doesn’t just do the work but helps you understand. They should be committed to increasing your visibility into company performance through the delivery of high-quality data. From the strategic implementation of analytics technology to data reporting and visualization, training, and consultation their goal should be to empower you and your teams to make intelligent decisions for your business.

Translate Requirements into Measurable Goals

Make sure to set up measurable goals and objectives that are clearly defined. Including measurement intervals can also be valuable to both your organization and your service provider. 

Avoid becoming myopic. 

At this point, best practice is to include your procurement and legal teams in the process. Ensure they understand the organization’s objectives, reasoning why the provider has been selected, and the scope of work. Bringing these departments in, to structure the right deal with the right terms, guarantees you won’t get “lost in the deal” and inadvertently shift focus from an emphasis on meeting your goals and objectives to “closing the deal” – getting the best price, hammering out terms and conditions, even backing down on requirements to save money.  

Conclusion

The benefits of analyst augmentation are many, especially for enterprise marketing leaders who know the impact an analytics department can bring to an organization. But the investment required to find and build the right team, not to mention the ramp-up time required to see actionable results –  can be arduous. An analyst on-demand service, either as a quick-start solution or an augmentation to your current team allows you to increase your analyst capacity and be data-driven today. While there are risks associated, with the help of these best practices, you can mitigate them considerably, if not altogether.

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Napkyn’s Analyst Program was designed to give enterprise marketing and technology leaders everything they need to use data to succeed. Companies who engage with Napkyn Analytics benefit from our full team of diverse, strategic, and experienced analyst and analytics professionals who immediately start planning and executing a successful measurement program for your business by overcoming barriers that most data-driven executives experience on their road to success.

Tara Landry

Marketing Manager

With more than 20 years of experience as a marketing communications professional, Tara has in-depth campaign experience from conception to analysis and is passionate about content, translating marketing ideas across all organizational levels, and punk rock.

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