A couple of years ago, I participated in a CMO dinner held by The CMO Club in Chicago. As part of the get-to-know you process, we were all asked, “What is your favorite part of being a CMO?” Nearly everyone answered that it was the balance of unfettered creativity and hard analytics that allowed them to perform at their peaks and best benefit their organizations. Perhaps we can count that as an anomaly—a small sample, alcohol-driven or getting caught up in the momentum of the crowd—because the data tells a different story.

A study by Deloitte showed that 82% of more than 300 surveyed CMOs admit that they are uncomfortable (or even unqualified) to interpret and apply consumer insights to decision making, despite the fact that their organizations expect marketing decisions to be made with substantial input from analysis of consumer behavior, attitudes, and preferences.

Many of us witness a meaningful gap in the vast majority of marketing organizations. Analytically proficient professionals most often head toward finance and technical teams, leaving marketing organizations without the firepower to effectively leverage analytic technologies.

The MIT Sloane program has done considerable study of analytically focused organizations and how they attract, develop, and utilize strong analytic professionals.

Last week, Jim Manzi, the founder and former CEO of Applied Predictive Technologies, mentioned that the ability to “make money using data analytics relies upon three necessary capabilities: the right technology, data sciences capabilities, and business strategy.” MIT Sloane concurs: “Companies that successfully combine analytic skills with existing business knowledge are more likely to create a competitive advantage with data.”

It is very clear, that in order for marketing organizations to become more proficient with data and analytics and to create shareholder value, they must consciously invest in people, skill development, and cultural change. MIT’s study points out that the largest single challenge among the business leaders surveyed is turning insights into action—moving from what happened, to why it happened, and then how to intelligently proceed. (Note, the second challenge is dealing with the size and complexity of big data—we’ll save that for another day and another blog post). The third major challenge is dealing with a fundamental lack of analytic skills in their organizations.

The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that, “by 2018, the U.S. economy will have a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical expertise and a shortfall of another 1.5 million managers and analysts with the skills to understand (data) and make decisions.”

Another critical point is that organizations that have already built strong analytic cultures and are considered “analytic innovators” (e.g. have a senior mandate to make analytically-based decisions, employ test-and-learn as an SOP, focus on advanced analytic techniques such as prediction and propensity) tend to have the strongest pipeline for new talent coming into the employment market. The result is that their bench strength will continue to build, while the roughly 90% of organizations that do not fall into this category will be in a constant state of catch-up.

In a world that increasingly values analytic capabilities and where increased shareholder value aligns to these strengths [PWC, 2015], it is imperative that organizations get moving and move quickly.

My recommendations include

  1. Making the right decisions with respect to data platforms and analytic tools. It’s not enough to know what happened in the past. Organizations must be able to understand the root causes and use past information to envision the future.
  2. Get buy-in from the most senior leaders that a data-driven, analytic culture is paramount.
  3. Look within the company for strong analysts who want to break down organizational silos and extend their skills.
  4. Get quick wins, quantify with measurable financial impact, and evangelize.
  5. Hire smart, motivated, and curious analysts. Become an organization that embraces their value, rewards their contribution, and is a great place to work.

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