Starting in January, 2010, I was presented with a unique opportunity from Bob McDonald, P&G – one of the most principled & purpose driven men,
I’ve had the privilege to work with in my career, and Filippo Passerini, P&G CIO – one of the most strategic leaders I’ve experienced and learned from in any industry.
They believed that “Analytics” was going to transform P&G, our industry, and business in general. However, P&G efforts to date were fragmented, IT vs. Business Needs driven, a cross-functional nightmare, plagued by under-leveraged talent, and not positioned to take advantage of what would be the “perfect storm” of capability over the following three years.
They wanted me to lead a complete transformation of Analytics, Business Intelligence, and how we approach and drive value for individual business units, functional areas, and the Company overall. This would turn into one of my largest Vertical Startups (VS) to date across strategy, talent development, information technology, strategic partnerships, innovation, and the move into advanced analytics to drive significant business value for P&G. My team and I created a unique blue print for P&G’s business (one that is confidential and not shared here), but also a model that is clearly applicable across any business to leverage analytics as a key capability to win.
The lesson: inspirational leadership is essential in our knowledge economy, but inspirational leadership is not “feel good” leadership. It is not about charisma. It’s about creating the conditions that motivate peak performers to seize opportunities and attack problems. It can and must be carefully cultivated through training and development, through personal coaching and example. Inspirational leadership is more likely to enable transformational change to deliver sustainable growth. – A.G. Lafley (Paris, April 5, 2006)
“The Magnificent 7,” was a 1960 classic movie (actually an adaptation of a Japanese classic… samurais vs. gun fighters) with screen play by William Roberts, direction by John Sturges, and starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Colburn. “They were seven… they fought like seven hundred.” This was our inspiration! Get more done faster, cheaper, and with bigger impact than anyone thought was possible. Ignore the status quo, barriers, people playing not to lose, cultural anti-bodies, and technology challenges… just make it happen. It was also about making choices… where to play.
Driving a holistic/business impacting Analytics Program is not easy. It helps if you can network with someone that has done it; and it definitely requires a little help from your friends!
If you’re starting your analytics journey, “fixing” the journey, or “transforming” the journey to the next level, here are the Magnificent Seven as you shape your journey:
#1 – Start with the Business Need & Strategy
Sounds simple, but is done incredibly poorly by most. All analytics start with the business problem you are trying to solve! Not a fancy technology, interesting data set, or impassioned leader preaching to the crowds. It’s about the business need.
If you do not know how to pull a strategy together, start with “Playing to Win” by A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin. Get clear on where to play, how you will win in those areas, the capabilities needed to deliver, and how you will measure success. Move from lots of activities to an articulated strategy and execution!
You need a set of business leaders that will iterate with you on the analytics. The CEO may be necessary, but is not sufficient. Find key leaders in the line businesses, key functional areas, e.g., Supply Chain, and respected forward thinkers who will lead with you. You won’t get the analytics or data right the first time. If they bail after one or two misses, you have the wrong players. I was extremely fortunate to have the President of our European business, a truly strategic, no-nonsense respected leader, and an early adopter, willing to iterate with us to solve his biggest challenges: how to grow profitable share in stagnant markets, how to optimize the supply chain across one Europe, and so on. We then found 3-4 other key leaders (including one of the best Supply Chain Global Officers in the industry) that jumped in as well.
These business leaders will also help you shape your strategy and business areas to focus. Without a doubt, Supply Chain, Retail Execution, Consumer / EBusiness, and Brand Analytics will quickly become some of your internal “Magnificent Seven” analytic domains! Analytics will become a “currency” that adds value to your business and with your external business partners.
#2 – Invest in Talent
Special Operation Forces, Rule #1: Humans are more important than hardware.
Talent is critical! But like any asset, how you leverage makes all the difference. We had incredible talent that was all off trying to solve problems (often the same problems) in a hundred different ways. You need to get your Top Analysts working as one unit. No, you don’t need to centralize them (it’s actually better if they stay embedded with the business units). You do need to organize, develop, and recognize them as the critical asset they are to your company.
The best analysts have three skills: 1) Analytics expertise, 2) Deep Business knowledge in the domain or business unit they are working, and 3) Effective Communications skills. Focus on developing all three aspects of your analysts. Great analytic expertise without context is useless. Great Business knowledge and analytics without the ability to communicate/influence makes it slow and tedious. Great communication without substance is smoke & mirrors – you know, the Powerpoint warriors.
Build internally and leverage analytic know-how from strategic partners! You need to be building your talent pool and leveraging immediate talent & external insights brought from a strategic partner. This investment is one of your most critical choices. Focus on talent, principles/value/purpose, and culture that fits with yours.
#3 – Partnership between Analytics & IT– One Leadership
If you don’t reorganize and give one leader accountability for IT, Analysts, and Business Algorithm development, get them working as one team. The biggest barrier to any strategy is groups having different measures, definition of success, or priorities. I was extremely fortunate to get one IT Leader, Corrado Azzarita, who understood the technology inside out, garnered the respect of the broader IT organization, and operated with a sense of urgency/playing to win!
Don’t chase the $500 golf driver of the year! Most bad golfers think the answer to their problems is an expensive new club. Bad golfers actually get worse with better equipment… what they really need is a swing coach that can teach them how to play. Don’t get distracted by the new shiny object, software, or tool of the day. Focus on getting better at the fundamentals/make a real difference for the business. Interestingly, once a golfer gets better, giving them great equipment then makes them even stronger. The same is true here.
Be ready to change the tires while driving down the road! We needed to fix the IT Architecture (ADW, Harmonization, Big Data, and more). We did not have time to stop, do these IT projects, and then resume analytics to help the business. Design your project stream to self-fund, invest for business impact, and focus on winning now.
#4 – Don’t Wait for the Data to be Right
In talking with numerous Fortune 500 companies, one of the insights I always share is don’t wait to get the data right. I remember the CIO during this discussion who turned as white as a ghost! They had been spending money for two years trying to get the data right before trying to do any analytics with the business. This is a waste! First, you don’t know what data will be most critical without driving true business analytics, and second, nothing gets data cleaner faster than presenting it to the senior leadership of the company!
Select tools that allow your analysts and data scientists to adapt/harmonize on the fly. You will get the data right for the most critical business needs… it’s a simple value proposition. However, it is key to select the tools that allow your analysts and business teams to adjust quickly, add new sources of data, and so on. Don’t create a model that is dependent on a central team to “code” for every new business problem or adaptation.
#5 – Strategic Partnerships to Accelerate
Selecting the right strategic partners is essential to your journey. This includes IT, Analytics, and business transformation partners. I shared that I only had two types of partners: 1) Strategic Partners who put their best people on my business, invested with me to grow, and brought innovation to my business needs, and 2) Tactical Partners who I negotiated only on cost until I could replace them with a strategic partner. The right strategic partnership model (and I’ve learned from some of the best in the Purchases/Procurement field – always a core part of my leadership team/inner circle) is an entirely separate topic. I invested heavily with and in my strategic partners. Not surprising to see who I am still working with now (https://www.linkedin.com/in/andy-walter/)!
Create a true Joint Business Plan with your strategic partners. Build a win-win plan that includes all aspects of your work with the partner: Operations/SLA’s /Savings, Key Projects, Co-Innovation, and Moon-shots you’d like to solve together. Leverage your senior leaders as core to this effort. Design quarterly rigor and annual top-to-top meetings with your strategic partners.
#6 – Focus on Innovation immediately– Analytics, Delivery, Collaboration, Scale
Don’t wait, organize for innovation within your analytics eco-system. Innovation is the life blood of your product strategy (and you are building an analytics product strategy for your company). Focus it around key elements of your plan: Data, Analytic Algorithms, Delivery of Insights, Analytics Team Collaboration, Scale, etc. New break-through is in progress on all fronts… VR/AR with advanced analytics, mobile delivery analogous to LinkedIn/Facebook, Machine Learning, and more. Did I mention checking out who I’m working with now? I’m partnering with Virtualitics as I believe this will be one of the key innovations that define the future of Business Analytics!
Get your innovation briefs articulated to be able to share with Strategic Partners and the broader ecosystem of startups, accelerators, and industry players. Get everyone working on your business problems with you!
#7 – Network Beyond your company & industry
I immediately realized there were extremely smart people working in other companies (non-compete), Industry bodies, Academia, and for-profit institutes that could be incredibly valuable to the journey. Seek them out and learn with the best together. I’ve created and am still leveraging a powerful network across companies in Analytics.
Conferences are interesting, the networking that occurs from interacting with the top analytics thought-leaders is priceless! I happen to be co-chairing the CGT/RIS Analytics Summit on April 27-28th. The leaders we are bringing together across industries and the ability to interact and learn from them, is incredible. You as a leader need to be investing in your talent and in yourself!
Andrew J. Walter is a Strategic Advisor for Virtualitics. With over 25 years of experience, Andy’s career has spanned a variety of assignments including Global R&D, Product Supply & Manufacturing, Marketing, and International Sales & Operations. Andy also designed and led the industry-leading Business Intelligence / Analytics journey across P&G. Under his leadership, P&G received the first-ever Excellence in Analytics Award by The International Institute of Analytics. His teams have also been recognized with CIO 100 Awards in 2010, 2011, and 2012. In 2013, Harvard Business School added a P&G-based case study to their analytics’ curriculum.