The CMA Analytics Conference is just around the corner, so we decided to chase down the Opening Keynote Stephan Sorger (Partner at On Demand Advisors) to see if he'd indulge us in a little taste of his upcoming talk, set for February 26th.
You're coming all the way from California. What makes this a must-attend event?
The power of analytics does not stop at the California border. Nor does it stop at the U.S. border. Analytics is a global force. We cannot hope to learn all there is to know by only studying how analytics is applied locally. We can, and must, expand our boundaries, examining the application of analytics with different people, with different companies and with different lands.
Since you're the Opening Keynote, we're hoping you've got all the secrets. What can we expect from you?
I talk to a lot of people about analytics. Many of them are afraid to start analytics-based initiatives. What they really need is a hero—a champion of change—to inspire them. Therefore, my keynote is dedicated to profiling champions of change through case studies of companies applying analytics projects. For example, I talk about how Canadian company Bombardier and New Jersey-based Rent the Runway transformed their businesses through analytics.
What kind of advice can you offer someone just beginning to get their head around analytics?
Start small. Get some wins under your belt before you start on ambitious new projects. I see so many companies, with little or no analytics experience, mount huge analytics initiatives only to see them fail. For example, as IBM says, "Start small, get big results."
What do you think of sociologist William Cameron's statement: "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts?"
While it is probably true that not everything in life can have metrics associated with it, one can often find a relevant metric to measure and monitor performance if you take the time to understand the real situation facing the organization. I believe that another relevant statement is, "Metrics make good servants but bad masters," because some organizations slavishly try to achieve certain metrics that are not particularly useful to their success.
What can we expect in the next year in the world of analytics? 5 years?
I believe we will see virtually every large organization adopt a chief analytics officer (CAO) role. Many companies have benefited from grass-roots efforts, but analytics needs to be driven by executive leadership if it is to spread across the organization. For example, Caesars Entertainment has seen benefits from the creation of its CAO position. The position was championed by CEO Gary Loveman, a former Harvard professor, who has been a big supporter of analytics and was the driving force behind Caesars' broad use of analytics.
Who are you most looking forward to hearing at the event?
I am looking forward to hearing about the journey to becoming an analytics-centric organization. For example, one of my colleagues was involved in driving analytics initiatives at Macy's. Even though the benefits were obvious, he was surprised by how much resistance he faced from line staff in adopting the changes. He soldiered on, though, and Macy's is now a much better organization because of its new analytics capabilities.