February 20, 2014 ↘︎

Planes and platforms

Question – would you buy a plane, but not allow for a pilot to fly it or a ground crew to maintain it?

The logical answer would be no. Unless you’re looking for a museum piece that never leaves the hangar, the cost of running the plane would be built into the business case to buy the plane. Surprisingly the same logic is not often carried through to analytics and optimisation.

There’s usually a good number of zeros involved in the licensing so you would expect no dust to be allowed to settle. Unfortunately, given our involvement with enterprise level analytics and optimisation platforms, we regularly see companies budgeting for the licensing and initial implementation, but not allowing for the training and maintenance required post implementation.

Taking flight

Like a website, an analytics or optimisation platform is a living thing that grows with your team and experience. It will move from being a licensing sunk cost to a critical business tool that pays for itself many times over in sales, engagement and customer insight.
I had the privilege of being part of a team within the higher education sector that grew from 2 people to 11 people, largely based on business cases using trusted data from our platforms. So I know first hand that it can work.
So, how do you go about this?

Understand what you’re purchasing

Firstly, you need to understand that you’re taking on an enterprise level platform that requires significant effort before it can start to be used as a business intelligence tool.

Your platform licensing contract will typically span multiple budget cycles, so make sure you have a line item in each successive budget cycle that allows for staff training and specialist consulting for things that aren’t out of the box. Like any specialist knowledge, make sure that your staff share knowledge internally. This will protect you against starting again at square one as a result of them leaving.

Finding the right resources

The analytics and optimisation function is a demanding one, especially as it starts to gain traction internally, so it’s an unrealistic expectation for it to form part of a person’s existing role on top of their existing workload.
Within the APAC region there’s a very limited number of people with the optimal skill set for analytics and optimisation (a whole other post). This makes it critical that you allow your designated internal resources the time and space to learn how to make your new platform hum and start producing positive returns. If you truly do not have any internal capacity, then be prepared to take on external consulting resources.

A few words on consulting

The companies we work with that succeed with their platforms are the ones that have dedicated internal resources that make use of the specialist vendor and consulting resources available to upskill themselves.

As a consult nothing excites my inner teacher more than when a client new to these platforms starts to connect the dots and see the massive potential they can bring to their own organisation. This is the part of my job that I love the most, far more than discussing the hours needed to keep an implementation running.

Rant over, what can you hopefully take from this post?

  1. You are purchasing a highly customisable, enterprise level platform that WILL require continued investment post implementation before it produces returns – so plan for it in your budget cycles.
  2. Invest in your platform by investing in your people. Experienced people in this field are hard to find, so use their experience to upskill you internal resources, while giving them the time to learn.

Let me know your thoughts.

The content and advice contained in this post may be out of date. Last updated on February 20, 2014.
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