THE FIRST 90 DAYS OF A DATA AND ANALYTICS LEADER

Updated: Feb 10


Congratulations! You worked hard to get this new assignment, and you deserve it. Enjoy it because you know the honeymoon will not last long. The pressure is on to deliver. However, where do you start?

Having advised many data leaders over the years, here is what Eckerson Consulting suggests to focus on in the First 90 Days.

Current State Assessment You had guessed that one, I am sure. You, of course, need to understand what you are inheriting. That is easier said than done though, and it can't take two months to figure this out because this is just the beginning; there is a lot more work to do. We recommend utilizing a SWOT-type of analysis for this. There are five areas to define and understand:

◼︎ What is the mission of the group and how does it run its "business"? ◼︎ Who is in your team and what roles are staffed? What skills are you working with? ◼︎ Is there data governance in place? ◼︎ What data are you managing? What are the architecture, platforms, and technologies involved? ◼︎ What about analytics? Who does this? How is the data used, what services do you offer and what does the business do by itself?

Your mandate Always make sure you understand what is expected of you. If expectations are not clear, clarify. Stakeholders in your company or organization (your boss comes to mind as a stakeholder who's an opinion you should care about) have their objectives and expectations. There are always MANY issues to address in a new job, but there are priorities, and these are not always what you think they should be. Sit with your boss and have a conversation about what your mandate. What overarching goals are your responsibility? Michael Watkins refers to the STARS model to do this. There are five "situations" you can find yourself in, and you and all your stakeholders must agree (or at least your boss should support) on which it is:

◼︎ Start-up: here you will assemble everything. Whatever the current state is, you are wiping things clean. This is a rare situation in a larger organization. Congrats, this is exciting; ◼︎ Turnaround: you are saving a business widely acknowledged to be in trouble. Much like a start-up but with one difference: it is not "clean" by any means because you cannot just ignore the legacy; ◼︎ Accelerated growth: there is a backlog of requests and projects that are pending, demand is growing, and the business needs this capability. Can you code too? You will be hiring and buying in this scenario; ◼︎ Realignment you will reenergize a previously successful group that now faces problems. This scenario is the most common, at least partially - you can always improve; ◼︎ Sustaining success: a unicorn when it comes to BI & Analytics. You preserve the vitality of a successful team and taking it to the next level.

To make things a little more complicated, it can be a combination of these. The nice thing is that each has a known set of challenges, opportunities and best management practices to help you. They say that management is part art and part science - I like the latter for this reason.

Identify Quick Hits and Get Them Started If you have not figured it out yet, we talk about 90 days because, after about 90 days, people ask the question "so, did we pick the right person?". There will be an evaluation of you, and you should think now about what you will bring to show-and-tell. Think about it this way: your boss will be congratulated on having given you the challenge or be asked to get involved and put pressure on you. Your boss prefers you being autonomous, trust me on this. Perhaps focus on data governance? What about data architecture? Analytics architecture? There is likely something urgent that you and the team can make a turnaround quickly.

Establish Your Strategy Ok, so you are at the end of your first day. I'm kidding, let's say the end of your second week (feel better?). You want your Current State Assessment done fast so you can get started on the deeper stuff. You need to establish a real strategy - a Data Strategy, as this is commonly referred to these days.

Your Data Strategy will be based on three things: ◼︎ your mandate (mentioned earlier); ◼︎ the output of your Current State Assessment; ◼︎ the Business Strategy of your whole organization.

Also, then you need to translate this into a five-pronged strategy that defines each of the following components specific to BI & Analytics (see our Framework): ◼︎ Demand management & process; ◼︎ Organization; ◼︎ Data governance; ◼︎ Data architecture and platform; ◼︎ Analytics architecture and platform.

Formulate a Plan Not everything can be done at the same time. There are budget limitations and a sequential logic to certain things. You will need to prioritize, set up a program to deliver, and identify a budget. All this is what will allow you to BEGIN setting expectations. This must happen a few weeks before the 90-day deadline - it takes time to meet people and refine budgets, not to mention that such a plan must be staffed and started.

Start Program and Governance Execution Getting here within 90 days can be daunting. One possible way to make sure some initiatives get started is to split your strategy between the obvious must-haves and the good-to-haves that require more discussion. Of course, make sure to be very clear about your 2-step approach to set expectations correctly. To have your program manager in place and having one or more initiatives started is a great way to show that under your leadership, things get done.

Conclusion There is a lot to do in the First 90 Days. Of course, not every BI or Analytics director does all of this in 3 months. However, they probably should. Each organization is different, with data, BI and analytics to varying levels of priority. However, make no mistake: whether explicitly or implicitly, someone expects this of you. The faster it gets done, the more value a BI/Analytics/Dat Engineering Director will be perceived as having. While getting all of the above done is indeed something doable for someone competent, it becomes difficult because of the tight timeline and the ever-changing technology landscape. You can't close your door or work from home for two months, and chances are your boss will be calling on you for status updates. 

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