According to Eva Murray, who wrote an excellent book entitled Empowered by Data: How to Build Inspired Analytics Communities, there are specific steps, processes, and recommendations that you can follow to help build an analytics community at your organization. She has found that building an analytics community is one of the most effective ways to develop and enhance individuals’ analytics capabilities.
Below are some of the most actionable steps that resonated with me as I read Eva’s book on building analytics communities.
Tip 1: Provide Opportunities for Continuing Education
Teams need to become proficient with their analytics tools and it is important to have learning opportunities that are specifically focused on that. Ideally, analysts should continue to work towards data literacy/data fluency. Offering courses and education on basic statistics, appropriate chart selection, and data storytelling will help your teams learn how to communicate their analyses even more effectively.
Learning opportunities can come in the form of structured online courses, blog posts, workshops, and/or webinars.
Tip 2: Share Additional and Well-Organized Resources
We have found that the most successful analytics communities have well-organized resources that can be easily accessed by everyone. Beyond course content, analytics communities will benefit from having organized access to the following:
- Contact information for different types of support (e.g., IT Help Desk, expert analytics support)
- A list of frequently asked questions and answers (e.g., how to access and install software)
- Quick start guides for various analytics tools
- Data catalogs
These resources and documentation will be specific to your organization. They will take time to develop and time to maintain. The time spent compiling these resources will be well worth the effort.
Remember that team members can learn new analytics tools, but if they do not know how to access the data needed for their reporting, then they will not be able to make good use of their new analytics skills.
Tip 3: Set SMART Goals
You may be familiar with the concept of SMART goals. The SMART acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Having SMART goals enables us to clearly define the scope of a project and helps us focus our efforts.
As an example of general goals, leadership may dictate that Excel will no longer be the primary tool used for reporting. Teams will need to learn how to use more powerful and efficient analytics platforms such as Tableau or Power BI.
Those general goals can be converted to SMART goals by identifying a more specific scope. At Data Coach, we have capstone projects – with assigned deadlines – that naturally become SMART goals for our learners. For example, a common capstone project we’ve seen is a learner selecting an existing Excel report and developing that report in Tableau instead.
Another common capstone project that learners complete is developing a new dashboard based on available data that had not yet been analyzed. Our Data Coach learners are fully supported so that they can identify their SMART goal and achieve that goal within the given timeframe.
Tip 4: Assign Experts To Answer Questions and Provide Feedback
As you are developing an analytics community, think about who can be the champions and experts at your organization.
Do your existing experts have the capacity to support members of the community?
Do community members know the best method to reach out and get support from experts?
Would it be useful to have more experts on your staff to help provide that support?
In our experience, we’ve found that our learners really thrive when they have access to expert coaches to help answer questions, share resources, and provide feedback to them.
Tip 5: Acknowledge and Reward Progress
We all enjoy recognition. Analytics communities that recognize and call out great work help to create more enthusiasm for the work being done. Recognition can be in the form of digital badges and points awarded for completed courses.
Showcases of completed work can also be an excellent way to broadcast the great work being done. At Data Coach, we select specific learners and invite them to showcase and demo their work to their organization. In these showcases, learners do a quick demo of their dashboard for the audience. They also discuss the purpose of their dashboard and what analytical questions it answers.
Additionally, the learner and audience discuss potential future enhancements of the dashboard and how this new reporting has improved their workflow.
Tip 6: Take the Time to Develop Your Team
A blossoming community is not grown overnight. It needs to be cultivated and continuously managed. The most successful communities have a team of supporters and leadership buy-in.
From planning and promoting the community events, compiling and sharing the learning content, to taking time to celebrate the wins – developing and maintaining a community can certainly be fulfilling, but can also be quite time-consuming.
Our hope is that you found a few (or all) of these tips helpful as you build your analytics community.
If you’re looking to kickstart your team’s analytics journey, consider exploring Data Coach! From expert analytics coaching services to learning management, Data Coach can help you grow your analytics community.