Brick and mortar stores have been cautiously embracing data, but Target has turned its cornucopia of information into a key to market success.
When I took the CIO role three years ago, one of the first things I did was send all of the business analysts and database administrators through our business analytics course. But I didn’t just send them – I went through it with them.
I see my approach to skill development as a journey, and important to that journey is creating more people who have a deep understanding of the art of the possible. That’s why I wanted to be in the classroom taking the course with my team. I want to help them make critical connections between what they were learning and how it applied to the business.
After directing Research and Development at SAS for most of my career, I wanted to offer them color commentary on everything they were learning. The teacher called the plays, taking the class through the various types of analytics, the type of analysis, the data issues. I provided the bigger picture around how those could be applied in new ways to re-engineer our business.
This approach enabled the team to think outside of the narrow view of a particular analysis or data source. It helped them think in terms of the systems and the people who may be affected by their work and decisions. It was the senior leadership insight to the technologies that I think was important for the entire team to learn alongside the technical aspects of their work.
I can say qualitatively that, as a result of our training, we’ve improved our relationships with the different business units and changed the conversations between IT and the rest of the business. The team is mature around our analytics and data management processes. And the team is informed enough to understand how to participate and collaborate with other teams – such as marketing – because we changed its ability to deliver higher-value answers.
Analytics training has been a huge win for us, but I think teams would be at a loss if a CIO who understood the business didn’t take the opportunity to also articulate the art of the possible to the business. If you’re looking for ways to help your IT organization better understand the business you’re in, you might want to try embedding yourself in the classroom beside them – everybody could learn a lot. Analytics training is key for IT teams.