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The Decision Factor offers insightful comments and observations on analytics—from views on new technology approaches and market dynamics to the latest industry trends driving demand for faster, smarter information analysis. This blog contains personal views, thoughts, and opinions from SAP employees, mentors, and friends working in the area of analytics. It’s not endorsed by SAP nor does it constitute an official communication of SAP.

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Ken Rudin of Facebook, Discusses His Approach to Analytics and Team Building

During a recent Inside Analysis webinar, Wayne Eckerson, founder of the BI Leadership Forum, and Ken Rudin, director of analytics at Facebook, discussed how companies should approach analytics. I found three of their points particularly interesting.

  1. Focus on impact not insights. Analytics organizations and analysts need to promote the importance of measuring the right business components to achieve meaningful results. It’s more effective to track results tied to your business strategy than to make observations about the data.
  2. Focus on the questions you want answered not the answers. In order to get the right data, focus more on what questions to ask rather than the answers you receive. In other words, if you ask the right questions, you gain greater insight into your customers.
  3. Be an analytics evangelist not an oracle. Good analysts need to understand the business they support. You need to be able to influence and, in some cases, sell leadership on new approaches and strategies. Rudin recommends embedding analysts in the lines of business instead of a centralized organization that operates from the outside.

Building an Analytics Team

Rudin also discussed how he’s building a strong analyst team at Facebook. When hiring from the outside, he asks candidates to:

  • Prove their business savvy, technical abilities, and sales/communication skills
  • Describe a former employer’s strategy and business model
  • Explain a sophisticated analysis they’ve completed
  • Share an example where they showed leadership, either personally or professionally 

Since the market is tight for skilled analysts, Rudin also developed a two-week embedded, immersion program to create analysts. The program develops the analytics skills of current employees who are already comfortable working with data, such as product managers. 

What are your thoughts on where analysts should reside in an organization? Should they be a part of the division or line of business they support? Can they be effective as part of an external organization that offers a service?

How do you attract and retain strong analysts? How do your analysts impact the growth of your business?