It’s likely you have at least considered how you can do more of your projects, or more components of them, in house. You may have watched from the sidelines the revolution in tools from the likes of Qualtrics or Survey Monkey, wondering if your team could utilize them. Perhaps you have already taken the dive into building a larger insights team to handle more sophisticated projects internally.  

-- The author will discuss in detail how he has worked with Del Taco at CRC, October 8-10 in Orlando. --

Different kinds of insights work require different team skillsets. Typically, in-house work starts with some kind of employee or customer satisfaction study. One-off projects lead to more regular tracking efforts. When projects involve reaching customers with point-of-purchase surveys, via the website or by email, they require survey development skills, some basic DIY tool experience, basic tabulations of results and an ability to translate the numbers into useful stakeholder insights and reports. Risk is relatively low in taking on these kinds of projects.

But what if you want to look at potential customers? What if you want to start giving your brand managers or marketing team direction on communications plans, new services, or product line management? These kinds of projects up the ante considerably when it comes to team resource planning.

These projects require multivariate statistical understanding and advanced analytics/modeling. They require additional analytical software resources. Required analytics may involve drivers, factor analysis, positioning maps, index development, segmentation, or trade-off approaches like MaxDiff or Conjoint modeling.

Unlike most “starter” projects mentioned above, where you could easily spread work across your internal insights team – sophisticated projects necessitate an investment in people and tools that is very specific to advanced analytics work. But before you open your wallet, you need enough of this kind of work to justify investing in these specific resources. And, if you are just beginning to consider these kinds of strategic projects you realize you have a problem.

Bottleneck.

You have two choices, either take your work to one of your research consulting suppliers or find a statistics consultant to work with your team. The former approach punts on any real possibility of doing these kinds of projects in house, ever. The latter approach gives you a runway on which to gain experience as a team, build confidence and a pipeline of work, and eventually bring the resources in-house.

Engaging with statistical consultants can be a challenge. As with any vocation, personalities are wildcards and it can be hard to evaluate their capabilities. There are dynamics in project flow and data needs that are unfamiliar as these kinds of consulting efforts plug into your processes.

In my 25 years I have experienced these challenges and adjustments from both sides. My current company, which I started three years ago, focuses on providing these analytics services to insights teams.

If you are of a mind to jump in and begin taking on projects that involve analytics work, but don’t have enough of this work to justify hiring someone and investing in a full suite of tools, I have some advice.

First and foremost, find someone who can act as a partner to you and your team. Someone who you see can be a collaborator to help guide you and your team in this effort.

Here are some questions I recommend asking as you evaluate your potential resource:

  • Are they nice to your staff – considerate and not condescending with questions?
  • Can they keep up a friendly conversation with your staff for more than 2 minutes?
  • Would you want them to be an extension of your team when talking with stakeholders?
  • Do they feel it’s appropriate to use managerial judgment and “art” when applying analytics?
  • Is the bottom line for them the theoretical rightness of the model or the specific statistical output versus the need to get a useful answer?
  • Do they readily supply options that are low and high cost or effort – and give the trade-offs for each?
  • Do they seem to push one method regardless of the concerns you voice – or without honestly considering and addressing your POV?

Additionally, there are a few practical pointers you will want to consider as you engage with an analytics consultant. Here’s a small list to start:

  • AA Consultant should bring staff up to speed with methods appropriate for their level
  • AA Consultant should very specifically outline who will do what and with what data
  • Remember AA folks usually are not Tab Houses, usually don’t do weighting, don’t write questionnaires, don’t program questionnaires, don’t write reports or presentations that include the results of their analyses
  • Obtain overall cost quote instead of hourly rates and work out specific scope elements in case of a need to expand scope/costs
  • Retainers may not work because of volume of typical work
  • Include AA person in all schedule updates and keep them updated on project progress. Plan for at least one email each week unless more are needed

If you are on this journey and would like more information on how to travel it, or access to resources like myself, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at cdiener@analytics-team.com. You are invited to check me out on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/christophergdiener/

-- Learn more at Chris's presentation with Del Taco at CRC, October 8-10 in Orlando. --