Data Analytics

The Whats, Whys, and Hows of an Analytical Community of Excellence

The Whats, Whys, and Hows of an Analytical Community of Excellence

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One of the most effective ways to build a community around the use of information within your organization is to create a Community of Excellence (CoE) around Analytics. Communities of Excellence can create operational efficiencies, drive higher ROIs on data related projects, and create trust in the organization’s information.

What is an Analytical Community of Excellence?

An Analytical Community of Excellence (ACE) can be viewed as a focused group of people within an organization who drive culture towards using information to meet goals and agreed upon outcomes. By establishing discipline around the group and its operations, the organization hopes it will develop expertise in the use of information to drive decision making. A Community of Excellence should always move towards continuously improving – it defines success metrics not only for itself but for the organization in the effective use of information and monitors those metrics to ensure progress.

As a Community of Excellence matures, it can take on more operational initiatives – from prioritizing projects to centralizing technology. It could potentially become the service center for all things analytical within the organization.

What to call an Analytical Community of Excellence?

Depending on your organization, the name of the Community of Excellence might make a difference. In some organizations, having a name that can be referred to as an acronym might help in the adoption of the group. In other organizations, the use of the word Community might have a specific meaning or carry some weight that is appropriate for this initiative. Many organizations refer to this as a Center of Excellence or a Competency Center rather than Community. Care should be given to what this group is named from the start.

Who are the people that should be involved in a Community of Excellence?:

Certainly, a CoE should have an Executive Sponsor. They are the individual who understands the value of using information to drive decisions. Other typical roles involved in a CoE (depending on the organizational structure of the organization) include:

  • Data or BI Analysts
  • Data Scientists
  • Data Stewards
  • PMO
  • IT – DBA/Data Management

Depending on the initiatives and/or projects that will be conducted by the Community of Excellence, there are a few secondary roles that may be included within the group. If the group is going to be recommending policy changes that affect employees or recommending that new roles are created, you may want someone from HR sitting at the table. If the group is going to be creating specific analytical or BI training, you may want someone from corporate training involved. At the CoE’s start – or at a point where the CoE is implementing a large project – you may want to have someone from Marketing involved to help you promote the effort. If the CoE is going to be involved in recommending software purchases / implementations, it would be a good thing to have someone from Finance involved.

How does an Analytical Community of Excellence help to shape organizational culture?

The Society for Human Resource Management says organizational culture is based on values derived from basic assumptions about the following (SHRM, 2022):

  • Human Nature
  • Organization’s relationship to its Environment
  • Appropriate Emotions
  • Effectiveness

Are people inherently good or bad? Proactive or reactive? These assumptions lead to beliefs on how people within the organization should interact and how they should be managed. How does the organization define its business and its constituents? Which emotions should people be encouraged to be expressed and which should be suppressed? What metrics are used to show the organization is doing well? An organization will be effective only when the culture is supported by an appropriate business strategy and structure for the business and the culture.

An Analytical Community of Excellence can help shape culture by changing how the people within an organization talk about information. For example, instead of someone looking at a report and initially saying ‘That data is wrong!’ the ACE can encourage people to ask questions about the data they are seeing. By asking ‘What criteria was used to pull this information?’ and trying to understand if the report is the expected report or has the agreed upon criteria, the conversation turns to one of understanding rather than defense. In another example, the ACE could make sure everyone is aware of who is accountable for certain domains of data. Knowing this allows all people in the organization to have the same relationship and understanding within the environment, thus creating a baseline of understanding. This can lead to more effective decision-making processes and overall procedures.

Starting an Analytical Community of Excellence will take some time. It’s important that the implementation of a group like this is done in an educated manner, with understanding of its role, and with a blueprint for its function. The key steps to creating an ACE include, but are not limited to:

  • Make sure there is a sponsor
  • Select people to participate in the ACE who have influence within the organization
  • Develop a charter – define scope
  • Start small – quick and high priority wins for the ACE to build momentum
  • Agree on what success looks like and then measure against that.
  • Market the group to the organization

The capabilities of an Analytical Community of Excellence are endless once the foundation is set. Creating trust around an organization’s information is a crucial step to the internal culture. If this is something that is lacking within your organization, it may be time to start building an ACE.

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