Tag Archives: Business intelligence

So what the heck do you do with Watson Analytics?

It has been a little over a year since IBM’s Watson Analytics was released.  Watson Analytics, a smart data discovery tool, continues to deliver easy analytics for everyone.  Some competitors are trying to catch and imitate what IBM has delivered but frankly, their latest news is more “snooze worthy” than newsworthy.

Because Watson Analytics is so easy to use and visually appealing, IBM has seen strong adoption (1 million plus users!).  Over the past couple of months there have been some amazing additions to an already fantastic product (see Watson Analytics for Social Media).

Watson Analytics is so powerful and can address so many different uses cases.  I am frequently faced with the following query:  So, I get it!  I have a ton of data and I need a way to make sense of it.  But what exactly do I DO with it??

This really depends on what your role is.  In our work lives we each fit into some type of role:

  • sales guy
  • marketeer
  • finance professional 
  • operations director
  • supply chain manager
  • head of strategy

So, as you read this and think about what YOU can do with Watson Analytics, think about the data you need to better visualize.  Think about what finding patterns within your data could do for you.  Finally, think about how adding social media data to your analyses can make you analyses event more effective.

But most importantly let’s put this in context of some of the major roles and use cases that will matter to you:

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Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing the details behind some of these specific use cases and providing a “how to do this yourself” approach.  Check back to hear more about how #watsonanalytics can help address many of these use cases.



3 critical attributes for analytics solutions

I recently had the chance to attend the Gartner BI Summit in Las Vegas.  If you are in the analytics space and have not attended this event, you really need to check it out.  My colleague Marcus Hearne shares his experiences at the event in his blog post. The event is Gartner‘s opportunity to share their point of view but also for analytics vendors of all sizes to share their points of view.

So what did I take away from this event?  Put quite simply, analytics vendors must design solutions and capabilities that are fast, easy and smart.  For too long, analytics have been relegated to the to the wizards, witches, sorcerers and sorceresses in their lair.    It does not need to be that way.  As Gartner analyst Rita Sallam pointed out in the keynote, mere mortals can demystify the magic and understand the “tricks” behind the magic.

As I sat through the various vendor sessions I picked up on the key themes of fast, easy and smart.  Let’s talk a little bit about what that means:

Fast:  Each of the sessions I sat through demonstrated the speed of the analytics offerings.  This should just be an expectation period, no discussion.  You need answers and you need them fast.   We expect to get answers quickly in our personal lives…why should we have a different expectation at work?  It was more than just raw speed.  It is also about getting up and running quickly.  This can be done by adopting cloud based analytic solutions.

Easy:  Analytics solutions must be dead simple to use – I am talking as easy as a telephone, microwave or a garden hose.  If analytics require a PhD or reading a long manual…there will be no broad adoption.    But it is much more that just easy to use. The information must be easy to understand.  This can be accomplished through powerful visualizations.  Remember: A Picture is worth a thousand words.

Smart:  Many of the latest and greatest innovations feature industry specific or use case specific solutions, such as Predictive Maintenance and Quality.  Analytic solutions must be specific to the users’ role and address specific pain points.  More and more offerings will include some form of intelligence to make the analytics all the more powerful.

To hear more about analytics I recommend visiting a Business Analytics Summit in a city near you.


Does the word “analytics” scare you?

I studied German at university for both my undergrad and graduate degrees.  Numbers and data were not exactly my strong suit.  In fact, I was a bit of a “numberphobe” or “arithmophobe” for many years.    arithmophobia1I am willing to bet many of my fellow marketeers are also not thrilled with having to become more of a scientist vs. artist when it comes to managing marketing activities.  Many marketers have never developed (and frankly never been asked to) develop the analytic skills required to be successful in today’s data driven marketing world.

Well guess what folks?  If you are a marketer and have not started developing analytic skills yet…you are behind the curve and may find yourself left in the dust. Now, with that said, if this German major can “get it”, I am pretty convinced anyone can!  Here is how:

  1. Get knowledgeable! Learn about the metrics and KPIs marketers should focus on and why they are important.  This is Spend time learning from those who have come before you vAnalytics Knowledgeersus inventing your own.  B2B demand marketers can turn to Sirius Decisions for a strong and simple cookbook to measure marketing effectiveness.  Their demand waterfall gives everything a demand marketer needs to know.   Additional ideas on the right measurements are laid out in The Performance Manager.   This is probably one of the most important areas I learned about:  Which metrics to choose and why.  As I did not have a background in marketing,  I spent the majority of my efforts here.
  2. Sell the metrics and KPIs to sales and marketing leaders:kpi I can not emphasize enough how important it is to gain agreement on the joint marketing and sales metrics.  Mark Emond, from Demand Spring emphasizes this in his blog posts and his engagement with customers. Defining the word “lead” and agreeing on how many marketing will deliver to sales is likely to be a huge challenge.  It is critical to select metrics which your actions can influence and will have measurable impact on business performance (e.g. # of net new leads, Average deal size, average sales cycle etc.)  These will be the easiest to sell to your execs.
  3. Put the spreadsheet down, back away slowly and no one gets injured:  Spreadsheets are nice and familiar to most people but they lead to conflict and ultimately waste more time than it is worth.  With agreed upon metrics and KPIs, it is time to explore a single version of the truth versus everyone’s OWN version of the truth.  Business Intelligencedata discovery, predictive analytics and visualization offerings have become easier and easier to use over the past several years.  Many offer the flexibility of spreadsheets (heck, some even offer a spreadsheet like interface!) while also providing one, single version of the truth.  (No more debating which version of the spreadsheet based report is “correct”).  The other thing to consider when selecting a tool to support your needs:  ensure that you select a tool that is intuitive and is not going to take a PhD to learn!  @Ventanaresearch describes the shortcomings of spreadsheets in this white paper.
  4. Invest in education and training:  Invest in yourself and/or your employees. Importantly learn how to bring analytics into your team with the maximum positive impact.  There are many educational resources out there for you and your team to get up to speed.   Connect and network with others who use analytics in their organization to learn about how they have had success.

Overall needed to become more analytical can be daunting, especially for those who may not have an analytics background.  With that said, there are many resources available to you.  If a German major can lead marketing analytics initiatives, can it really be that complicated or hard to do?

Marketing Win Revenue = Autopsy on a dead guy!

Marketing organizations are not exactly known for their desire or ability to measure the outcomes of their activities.  As a former director of marketing ops I ask myself:  Is it ability?  Is it lack of desire? Or, is it simply that marketers just do not know where to start?   As with any complex organizational discussion, it is likely a mix of the three.  My experience leads me to believe that most marketers just do not know where to start.  And those who have started are likely choosing all the wrong key performance indicators and metrics.

When I was still in my marketing operations role,  I would frequently hear from the marketing teams about how much win revenue we got from our marketing programs.   We were very fortunate that our organization had standardized our reportingCWprovided analysis capabilities to our program managers and the management team with standard dashboards for a single version of the truth.  Managing your business via lagging indicators is fine when you hit your target which we frequently did.

Still, something troubled me.  We knew what had happened and why but still could not answer what WILL happen.  Essentially, we could do an autopsy on a dead guy but could not predict what would kill him…Something had to change.

As a B2B marketing organization we subscribed to Sirius Decisions demand waterfalldemand waterfall In spite of this, our key performance indicators, metrics and business intelligence platform continued to reinforce the behavior that win revenue is king.  Our CMO was no longer content with seeing the results at the end of every quarter.  He wanted to know within a reasonable margin of error (+/- 10%) where we would end up each quarter.  We needed to change our behavior to do this, we needed to change our metrics…moving up the waterfall all the way to inquiries…and beyond.

Applying Predictive Analytics to the Problem

We were swimming in marketing data – contacts, inquiries, marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads and win revenue.  What we needed to do is figure out what patterns lead to a person progressing all the way through the demand waterfall.   By applying predictive analytics, we were ultimately able to predict within +/- 5% how much win revenue would come from our marketing activities.

We took our contacts, marketing outreach data (emails, web, live events), inquiries, pipeline and win revenue and brought this data together in a predictive model. SPSS-Modeler This predictive model identified those contact job titles, marketing offers and marketing channels which would yield a successful marketing inquiry.  From here, we were able to extend the model to be able to forecast which contacts would lead to inquiries and which of those inquiries would convert to marketing and sales qualified leads.  With this knowledge in hand, we were able to conduct “what if” analyses and predict the optimal mix of contacts, tactics, and channels to meet or exceed targets.

Changing Behavior

Now that we were able to predict the mix of contacts, offers and channels, we decided to change the way we measured marketing moving WAY up the demand waterfall.  We implemented the following metrics:

  • # of contacts within each segment (industry and geo)
  • # of net new contacts added to the database (as determined by email address)
  • # of inquiries
  • Conversion % from inquiry to marketing qualified lead
  • # of marketing qualified leads
  • Net new pipeline created ($)
  • Conversion % from marketing qualified lead to sales qualified
  • Acceptance % by sales rep

Notice – no win revenue.  As a marketing organization we believed marketing is responsible for finding new names and delivering net new pipeline while sales is ultimately responsible for revenue.

We updated our reports and dashboards I spoke about in a previous post to reflect these new metrics and assigned targets to each marketing team based on our predictive models.

My thought: I would rather know early on that I was off target versus having to do the post mortem…what are your thoughts? Send me your thoughts @BrendanRGrady on Twitter.

Can your CMO justify his seat at the board room table? Or is he still scrambling to justify marketing’s spend?

Too many marketing organizations rely on the fuzziness of marketing results without being able to confidently stand up and say:  “Look, this is what we spent and here is the revenue we got in return!”  According to the 2012 IBM CMO study, 63% of CMOs believe ROI will be the most important measure of success over the next 3 to 5 years.

In today’s economic climate, marketing leaders need to be able to confidently report on their results to justify their seat at the table.  We have all heard that analytics are key to improving performance but what does this really mean for marketing organizations?

As a former Director of Marketing Operations, I was challenged to help my CMO answer some difficult and challenging questions.  When asked to answer critical questions around ROI, I would struggle to find answers.  In the early days in my role, I would reply..let me go get that information for you.  I would inevitably return with a spreadsheet that none of the leadership team would believe.  Now imagine hundreds of spreadsheets floating around with different sets of results.  This led to many interesting and heated conversations….about the veracity of the data versus discussions about business performance.

I soon discovered the magic of Business Intelligence which enabled me to confidently answer leadership’s questions.  CWTo address the challenge of multiple versions of the truth we embarked on a journey which would change the marketing performance conversation forever.

Our journey began by defining the standard metrics and KPIs which would form the common language across marketing and sales.  This was by far the most arduous and difficult part of the initiative.  I would submit that it was the most important step in the entire process.

A "dashboard" is like a speedometer ...
A “dashboard” is like a speedometer that marketing professionals use to report marketing performance.

Once we had gained agreement it took about three months to provide a worldwide marketing scorecard to track performance against KPIs, 5 roles based dashboards to the leadership team, standard demand generation reports for 120+ demand generation specialists with the ability to do ad-hoc analysis to understand why certain marketing activities performed well while others did not.

So what changed?  The conversation about performance completely changed…for the better.  The marketing and sales teams defined a common language about how to measure the business.  With agreed upon KPIs, Metrics and a single, trusted version of the truth, the marketing organization focused on what matters – the marketing activities are performing and which are not.  In the end, by using the data in front of us and acting on it, the marketing organization improved open and click through rates, pipeline creation and conversion to revenue.

If you would like more information about this journey please contact me via Twitter @BrendanRGrady