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Scalability and business impact through Insights Centers of Excellence
Thought Leadership 5 MIN READ

Scalability and business impact through Insights Centers of Excellence

by Elizabeth Morgan
5 MIN READ

All eyes on business impact! Our executive panel with Forrester, American Express, Colgate-Palmolive, E.ON, Mondelez and The Home Depot delivered an energizing dialogue that reinforced the fundamental need for insights that drive business impact in high-quality decisions.

Leaders from over 21 global brands came together to consider learnings from recent Forrester Research that shows how insights professionals can drive more actions from data and insights through Centers of Excellence (CoEs).

In the session, Forrester’s principal analyst Cinny Little explained that while centralized service delivery models may be effective and low cost, they can result in low visibility across business lines, leading to poor quality decision-making. On the other hand, distributed models can be effective, but hold back insights-driven maturity. This’s why she strongly advocates a hub and spoke about the CoE approach – a solution that was roundly endorsed in practice by all contributors.

In addition to an inspiring exploration of the balance between insights relevance and differentiation, panellists shared their thoughts on the five key enablers for CoEs identified in the Forrester Research:

Enabler 1: A visible, vocal executive supporter and/or executive team with a clear vision

For Kristina Rodig, Head of Global CMI at E.ON, a hub and spoke structure promotes the visibility of the insights function, which when centralized, can risk being “buried in the organization, where nobody knows you exist. With the COE, you don’t have to design and choose communication formats to really bring your knowledge forward. I directly report to the board of managers across E.ON, because we have built trust in our performance and what we have to say, so we can bring insights forward throughout the business dialogue.”

Enabler 2: Governance that incorporates a balanced portfolio of technology, business, communication, plus influencing skills

Phillip Chambers, VP and Global Head of Insights at American Express, argued that technology is the secret to scaling relevant, differentiated information with personalized delivery to stakeholders. “What we’ve been obsessing about for the last 3 years is: What does it take to think about every single marketeer at American Express – the decisions they’re making, the insights they need? There’s no way the insights team can connect to all of them in person, so that’s where market insights platforms really make the difference.”

Enabler 3: Stopping work and deliverables that no one is using for taking actions

Brendan Baby Head of CX, Strategy, & Analytics at The Home Depot, says his team is solely focused on work that delivers an outcome. “The team spend 50% of their time working directly with merchants, understanding exactly what their problem is, knowing what decision they need to make, and then doing the work to inform that specific decision. It’s one of the things they check right at the beginning. They will not do work unless it leads to an outcome, changes the mind of the recipient, if the results differ from the hypothesis.”

Enabler 4: Focus on human skills that help change the way we must work

Paola Vacchini, Director, Consumer Insights & Analytics Europe at Mondelez addressed the need for differentiated skills for standardization and scale at the center, and business proximity for impact in the field. “We look for differentiated contributions to enable people to make different experiences. If we were to start from a blank sheet of paper, the skills we look for at the center compared with the skills on the ground, differ to some extent. The beauty of the hybrid model is that you can move people from one organization to another to create the capabilities that are important for them to develop, and to retain talent in your organization.”

Enabler 5: From the start, relentlessly focus on quick delivery of value, however small at first

Richard Thorogood, VP, Global Head of CMI at Colgate-Palmolive said the need for agility through the pandemic had sharpened their focus on quick deliveries. “Certainly, in the last year, we’ve really emphasized progress over perfection. That’s incredibly important. When you’re working on initiatives, you need to demonstrate progress, very quickly, to keep everybody on board and aligned, when you’ve got a sort of fragile alliance around what you’re trying to achieve. And that progress can make the alliance much stronger, and much more powerful.”

Beyond these fundamentals, the conversation revealed a wealth of experience, on the formal and informal realities of CoE structures, the art of listening, and key change personas and strategies to drive decision making with insights. Stay tuned for more summaries in the days ahead.

 

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