Data-driven decisions are increasingly becoming pervasive within enterprises. While most companies agree on the need for analytics in critical decision-making process, they are often in a dilemma whether to build an analytics team internally or outsource some of their analytics tasks. Building a fully-functional analytics team within a company can be complex and time consuming. Organizations need to evaluate the prospects of collaborating with a specialist managed analytics services provider to gain faster and impactful insights.
Analytics talent gap
The shortage of analysts — particularly those capable of developing and leading world-class teams that can enable a company to create a competitive advantage from its data and analytics — is driving organizations to consider outsourcing their analytics activities1.
The McKinsey Global Institute has projected that by 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of as many as 190,000 people with deep analytical skills.
India and China are rapidly filling the workforce deficit because of their large, young talent pool in quantitative disciplines like statistics, mathematics, economics, and engineering. Other countries such as Brazil, Singapore, Poland, and the Philippines have a growing analytics workforce.
India and China also benefit from the strong IT services industry in the region. Several aspects of IT services including technology, talent, and processes complement well with analytics services. Hence, analytics services companies have scaled rapidly in the region.
Analytics maturity and the role of managed analytics services
It would be naive to believe that organizations can completely outsource all their analytics responsibilities. In the book “Competing on Analytics: New Science of Winning”, Jeanne Harris and Thomas Davenport have highlighted five stages of analytics maturity of companies. The type of value an organization seeks through managed analytics will be different depending on its level of analytics maturity.
A common myth is that only companies lacking analytical maturity have the need for managed analytics services, while an analytical competitor does everything in-house. Based on our experience working with Fortune 500 companies, we have noticed that this is not true. In fact, a seasoned analytics services partner could help organizations accelerate the journey towards becoming an analytics competitor.
The type of analytics tasks the company outsources will be different at different stages of analytics maturity. In the initial stages, individual business units within the company could seek the help of an analytics partner to provide support in a specific business task – for example, analyzing employee survey data for the specific business unit.
Over a period of time, the organization can leverage its analytics partners’ products, algorithms, frameworks, and processes to start building an analytics organization internally. An analytics competitor can leverage managed analytics services in niche areas where it may lack technical capabilities – for example, Big Data analytics for fraud management.
Moreover, the mix of skill sets required by an analytics organization evolves constantly as the company becomes analytically more matured. A managed analytics partner with presence in countries with growing analytics talent pool (discussed in the earlier section) could help the organization manage the workforce requirement.
Diverse and changing business requirements
In the uncertain global macroeconomic climate, even the most analytically matured organizations have to weather adverse market conditions and rapid change in business environments.
Managed analytics services also help organizations move from a CapEx to a predictable Opex cost model. The predictability makes it easier for business users to justify a business case and for decision makers to approve the budget for managed analytics. As the services become more outcome-driven, costs can be tied to quantifiable business value.
With a managed service, analytics workload can be scaled up or down, depending on business requirements. For example, holiday season for retail, US elections, Super Bowl etc.
The speed of response of a typical managed analytics service will be significantly higher than that of an internal analytics effort. With no systems to build or people to hire, managed analytics is quick to launch versus months spent in building and operationalizing an internal team.
With the increase in volume and complexity of corporate data, the science, tools and technologies addressing businesses’ analytics needs are constantly evolving. It has become increasingly difficult for organizations to manage these changes on their own. These organization can transfer the technology ownership and risks to an external analytics expert. Specialist analytics companies are better-equipped with the right resources and assets to cope with rapid changes.
An experienced analytics provider can identify similar patterns in clients’ pain points, say around customer intelligence or marketing effectiveness. Also, the provider can recommend best practices it has identified through similar analytics exercises.
A ‘softer’ advantage of using managed analytics is the opportunity to analyse the data with fresh perspective, without old assumptions or biases. Moreover, unlike the in-house analytics groups, which might be pre-occupied with ad-hoc requests, an outsider has time for ‘exploratory analysis’ on the data.
The key is to hire an analytics vendors who not only has strong advanced analytics capabilities, but also is a specialist in the industry or domain in which you are seeking their expertise. With such an arrangement, the in-house team can focus on strategy and execution.
Synergies within the analytics organization
Earlier in this blog, I highlighted the challenges of hiring and retaining analytics talent. Another more subtle advantage specialist analytics companies have is the ability to provide a creative and professionally challenging atmosphere for analytics talent.
The co-located and context-rich environment equips analytics professional to conduct creative, problem-solving jam sessions which are more intellectually stimulating, than working with an isolated team within a larger marketing or shared services function. This too works in the favour of organizations which are seeking help from an analytics provider for more creative ways to solve its most pressing business problems.
Another advantage a specialist analytics player has is the synergy across its intellectual property. For example, an algorithm used for building analytics model for survey analysis of customer buying behaviour can be leveraged to build a model for measuring employee satisfaction. No doubt it would require additional efforts to modify the algorithm to specific client requirement, but the cost and more importantly – time – incurred will be exponentially more if an in-house team attempts to build a similar model from scratch.
Managed analytics – A structured engagement – NOT ‘outsourcing’
“Choosing analytics providers and structuring effective working relationships that deliver value require managers to have a clear understanding of what they’re looking for and the potential risks involved”1.
Although managed analytics can be deployed in several business scenarios it is a mistake to treat a managed services engagement as a transactional service – especially, given the degree of industry and company-specific knowledge needed to derive actionable insights from analytics. Companies should prepare internal resources to collaborate with the external partner in order to maximize the benefit of the managed analytics engagement.
The managed analytics lifecycle
A managed analytics services engagement should be a carefully crafted process that details out the roles and responsibilities and the expected outcomes from the exercise. BRIDGEi2i Analytics Services follows a structure and phased approach to ensure effective adoption of data-driven decisions across business functions and sustainable business impact.
While enterprises can enhance their analytics depth with managed analytics, they must be careful to select a service provider that is well-equipped with the right resources and assets to cope with rapid changes in business environment. With the right managed services partner, organizations are more likely to achieve the ‘analytics nirvana’ that they are seeking.
- Should You Outsource Analytics? By David Fogarty and Peter C. Bell. MIT Sloan Management Review. Winter 2014 issue. December 19, 2013
- Competing on Analytics – Jeanne Harris & Thomas Davenport
- Where will you find your analytics talent? – Accenture (2012)
This blog is written by Shulin Todkar, Analytics Project Manager at BRIDGEi2i
About BRIDGEi2i: BRIDGEi2i provides Business Analytics Solutions to enterprises globally, enabling them to achieve accelerated business impact harnessing the power of data. Our analytics services and technology solutions enable business managers to consume more meaningful information from big data, generate actionable insights from complex business problems and make data driven decisions across pan-enterprise processes to create sustainable business impact. To know more visit www.bridgei2i.com
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of BRIDGEi2i.