Find More Time for Analytics Projects!

More Time for Analytics Projects
More Time for Analytics Projects
Written by Heather L. Cole, January 13th 2022

I love this week in January as I use it to reflect on what worked, what did not, and plan for the next year. How about you? Did you have an extraordinary year? Did you accomplish your goals? For me I was able to accomplish some big goals in 2021, but not all the goals were complete.  My excuse…. If I just had more time!   As I reflect on this excuse it inspired me to share secrets to Finding More Time for Analytics Projects.  But you will find these exercises help find more time for family, friends, working out… whatever your goals include.

Cutting Out Unnecessary Tasks

The first game changing exercise that I do at least every quarter and my executive coaching clients do, is to cut out the unnecessary tasks.  Simply eliminating or delegating tasks you probably should not be doing can be liberating and help you find more time for your analytics projects.  This task takes about 15 minutes. 

  • Grab a stack of sticky notes, you might want multiple colors.
  • Write down everything you are responsible for doing. One task per sticky note.

  • Yes everything, personal and professional. I use different color sticky notes for Personal items, Lodestar Solutions tasks, tasks for my coaching business, Heatherized, tasks for the Boards I am on, and the charities I work with.  

  • Now sort them into 4 piles.
  1. Things only you can do, or you love to do.
  2. Things you could hire someone to do or delegate to others.
  3. Things you can automate.
  4. Things that aren’t really that important and don’t really need to be done.

  5. You can have more piles if you want.  Don’t tell my husband but I have a separate pile for things he should do.

  • Prioritize the items in each pile.

  • Once you have your piles go through the first two piles and star those items that are Needle Moving!  Needle moving items are those that help you accomplish your goals.  They can also be the items that are more in alignment with your values and who you want to be.  I call this your aspirational self.  

    In the book, The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan the authors describe the concept of a “Focusing Question,” which is, What is the One thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?  

     You know how when you line dominos up you can hit one and they make all the others fall?  Well in your life what is one thing that if you focused on, you could personally and professionally get where you want to go faster?

Example: Goal to Get a Raise

Let’s say you want to get promoted or get a raise.  What tasks can you do to get you there faster?  Could you design a new dashboard that would provide the CFO a view of the business that can be game-changing?  If so, one task might be meet with the CFO to see what he really wants to see from his dashboard.  I would categorize this as needle moving.

For more information on this area see our blog What are You Going to Accomplish This Year? 

  • Take the delegation pile and start sending emails or delegating. 
     
    This can be as simple as calling a cleaning service to clean your house, or a lawn service to take care of your lawn.

Repeat Every Quarter!

This is not a one and done exercise.  I do this every quarter and sometimes monthly.  After I complete it, I feel like a pressure valve has been released!  More importantly I have massively freed up my calendar to focus on the important things.

Another Level of Time Recovery

Want to take this to another level of time recovery?  For one week keep a detailed calendar of where you are spending your time.  I like to use 15 minute increments.  At the end of the week look back and break the time blocks into categories, such as sales calls, compiling reports, meeting with partners…   Where are you spending your time?  And is this really a good use of time?

Time Blocking

Did you know a major time suck is switching back and forth between tasks?  For years I thought I was good at multi-tasking, but numerous studies and science tells us otherwise.  No one is efficient at multi-tasking.  Switching from task to task is a major time waster.  So, STOP DOING it!

In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport describes Deep Work as the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.  Unfortunately, many of us spend our time in Shallow Work, which is non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted.  Newport explains that if you spend too much time doing shallow work you permanently reduce your ability to produce game-changing, needle moving work that provides great value.  He calls Deep Work the “Superpower of the 21st Century.”  To learn more about Cal Newport, check out this interview

I’ll admit, it took me a while to embrace this concept.  But when I did, BAAM!  Life changed.   Here’s the secret I use for deep work.

  • Open your calendar and look at what’s on it.  Are the important items that will move the needle to your future and where you want to go given appropriate amounts of time?  Or are you just getting to it when you get time?
  • Update your calendar with blocks of time that are dedicated to focusing on the important projects uninterrupted.  There is only one reason you get interrupted!  You let people do it!  The first step to getting seriously productive is to appreciate that time is the one resource you will never get back!  Cherish it and protect it.
  • When deep work time is scheduled turn off your phone, close your email and get to work.

When I coach clients on how to find time for their analytics project and introduce the idea of deep work for analytics, they often push back saying but you don’t understand.  I must be available.  Then I challenge them.  Is that really true?  If you put your out of office on for 3 hours with a message stating you are working on increasing your focus and productivity by working offline and would return messages in 3 hours, do you think the world would end?  Probably not.  In fact, people may just follow your lead.  Imagine if your entire analytics team were able to stop the fire fighting and start focusing on the things that matter, would you make progress?  I am certain you would.

So, you see finding time for analytics projects does not take a miracle.  It takes commitment, discipline and focusing on what really matters.  But you don’t have to go it alone!  Lodestar Solutions can help your analytics team find more time and be more productive.  Reach out to set up a complimentary chat at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Are You Ready To Start Raising the BAR (Business Analytics Roadmap)?

Business Analytics Roadmap
5/8/2018
Business Analytics Roadmap

Don’t know where to start in your analytics journey? Thinking about investing more money into analytics software that you’ll likely not use because no one has been properly trained on it?

Or…maybe you’ve experienced the later:

Have you invested in business intelligence solutions and not realized the benefit you were expecting?  Do your executives receive KPI’s on easy to read dashboards? Are team members receiving timely information to make strategic decisions? Do you want more productive teams?

Imagine if you had a clear vision of exactly what your executives and the various business units really need from a reporting, data and analytics perspective.  How productive would the IT team feel when the business sings their praises for delivering more than they expected?

I know you have tried working with the senior executive team to develop an analytic roadmap, but it’s difficult to get everyone to get on the same page.  Without a plan that aligns to what the organizations leadership is trying to accomplish, you’ll be fighting a losing battle.   

Raising the Bar

Lodestar’s Raising the BAR (Business Analytics Roadmap) workshops are structured to facilitate the process of defining, prioritizing, evaluating, communicating, developing, and executing your organization’s Business Analytics Roadmap.  In the Raising the BAR program we get the right people in the room to communicate the strategic initiatives and determine the path.   The outcome is to have all areas of the organization working in unison to improve performance while leveraging data and analytics to drive innovation and better decision making.  This will directly result in increased profitability. 

You can hire a large consulting firm for $100,000 to analyze your company and deliver a 120+ page document of issues you already know or hire Lodestar Solutions to coach your leadership team how to align their strategic goals with data and analytics, while building happier, more productive, self-efficient internal teams that deliver results. 

Raising the BAR’s framework to is easy to follow. One of our Sr. Business Analytics Coaches will guide you through the process of finding the path that best fits your organization’s culture and goals.  

Benefits of Coaching
  • Clear understanding of how business analytics can benefit your organization
  • Defined and focused priorities agreed to by the team; resulting in time savings and money
  • Connecting data and analytics to the strategic initiatives of the organization
  • Clearly defined business analytics roadmap to maximize your investment
  • Coaching significantly increases probability of successful solutions meeting your short and long-term needs  

BOTTOM LINE: YOU WILL SAVE TIME, MONEY AND ELIMINATE FRUSTRATION.

What is our Approach?

Business Analytics Roadmapping sessions consist of a series of short, interactive workshops. The goal of these sessions is to give you a better foundation and understanding of how business analytics can benefit your organization, evaluate how data and analytics can assist in achieving your strategic goals, create a vision of analytics, and provide an analytic roadmap for your organization. 

Our approach is simple. We follow a defined process that takes you through 5 phases of the initial BAR development.  The key to success is the executives’ and organization’s commitment to becoming an analytics driven organization.  The phases include:

A Business Analytics Overview – Establishing a definition of business analytics.  

Purpose/Outcomes – Defining the purpose and outcomes desired for analytics.

Vision Definition – Brainstorming session on all areas that could benefit from analytics.

Evaluation – Review of the feasibility and ROI of areas defined in the Vision session. Roadmap Definition – Create an agreed upon roadmap that Lodestar will formally document* for client.

What our Clients Say?

Just wanted to thank you for the workshop I attended Wednesday and Thursday.  The information was very helpful and thought provoking.  I say thought provoking because that is probably my main take-away from the workshop.  As I eluded during the workshop, I have seen and even applied most of the concepts shared (Scrum was probably the one I had the least amount of experience with, although I am familiar with it and have/do apply some of those principles as well).  

However, the big “win” is seeing all of these things again (refreshes my memory and reaffirms my belief in these techniques) and the thoughts that it provokes.  I am now well-armed and enthused to apply this (or very similar – adapted to our environment) framework here at CoreSite, thus assuring more success in the implementation and buy-in of our reporting and analytics improvement efforts.  I had a flood of ideas and follow-on actions that I took away from the workshop…so that we can truly apply these best practices and realize the value of these sorts of project/efforts.

Again, thank you very much for the course/content and your superlative presentation skills of the materials.  I was never bored and my grey matter stimulated/motivated.  Keep on doing what you’re doing.

Chris Otterson -Sr. Director – Business Operations & Continuous Improvement

Commitment

The rate of success for coaching the client dramatically increases when the client commits the right resource(s) and focus to the sessions.  This will mean access to executives to clarify the strategic initiatives and vision.   

The client must agree they want to grow and make changes in their organization. Coaching is not advice or consulting.  By entering into this relationship, the coach and the client acknowledge that the client wants to make significant progress and is dedicated to becoming an analytics driven organization.  Progress and change happen at rates that are unique to each organization and individual.  

Procedures

Coaching sessions are conducted onsite, with possible follow-up via telephone or web meeting as arranged with the Coach. It is recommended the client has a webcam to better facilitate remote discussions.  

Our Guarantee

“You get more than you pay for with Lodestar Solutions.”

If you fully participated in our program but are not satisfied with our services and the results, pay us what you feel it was worth.  We are that confident in our programs.

Interested in speaking with one of our Business Analytics Advisors to learn more about a Raising the BAR workshop? Email services@lodestarsolutions.com to schedule your consultation today!

Successful Analytics Projects Keys

3/9/2017

What are the Keys to Successful Analytics Projects?

Have your analytics projects not been as successful as you thought they would be?  Do you work with consultants and your expectations aren't being met?  Are you looking for a better way to complete your analytics projects?  There are a number of key items that can make your analytics projects a success.   These items can make you look like a rock star.  Today, we are going to start a 5 part series to show you how to realize successful analytics projects.  The first key is ownership.  

Successful Analytics Projects

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Owning Your Analytics Project

We believe in an agile methodology to implement analytics projects and a product owner is essential to the success of a project.  In the agile / scrum world, the project owner is the key stakeholder with the vision and expectations that are consistently conveyed to the scrum team.  Check out this blog on Lodestars scrum methodology, BAAM.  

However, ownership goes beyond just having a product owner.  Ownership is a mindset that should be part of every level of the project.  Every area from end users to power model builders need to have ownership in the project.   I read something once on ownership.  Ownership is not just doing the job or working the project. It means making it your mission to see it all the way to the end of the finish line and beyond.  In my mind, this means not waiting on others to address the issues or fix problems.  Ownership is looking for the issue before they become mission critical and taking the right steps to correct, even if you are at fault.  Ownership is seeking out training opportunities before the project starts and continuous learning when the project is finished.  

President Harry S Truman had a sign on that said "the buck stops here".  If you are going to own a project, consider putting the same sign on your desk because the buck should stop with you.

Part 2 of the series on the keys to successful analytics projects will talk about everyone's favorite topic, data.

Cognos Insight – Powerful but Simple Analytics Tool

Cognos Insight – Powerful but Simple Analytics Tool

As I sat and played with Cognos Insight (v10.2.2), it dawned on me that the opportunities are huge with this product.   New and veteran users alike can build high quality dashboards and reports with different data sources in little time.

Let’s start with the basics of Cognos Insight:

  • Free download of a slimmed down version of the software for any user through the Analytics Zone.  The free version allows you to bring in a data source from excel, .csv, or .cdd files
  • The full version is available to those customers who have current licensing agreements with IBM, or through a “buy it now” link.  The full version allows the above files types, plus the ability to connect to TM1 and BI package data.  You are also allowed to share your dashboards or reports with other users.
  • The data sources are quickly turned into OLAP or cubes and the user can quickly build reports or dashboards.

Simple Analytics Tool

The report above was created in very little time using an excel file as a data source.  Those of you who use crosstab reports and charts in Cognos BI should find this very familiar.

With the ability to connect to TM1 cubes and Cognos BI packages in Cognos Insight, the opportunity to quickly build powerful dashboards and reports is now available to many more users than in the past.  You do not need an expert in Report Studio to build objects – as many of you know it takes a long time to master Report Studio.  Now, with a day of training, end users can produce actionable reports and share with the organization.

Simple Analytics Tool

Dashboard created using Cognos Insight.

Make sure you contact us at services@lodestarsolutions.com to find out where and when our next demos are located.

I’m very excited about the opportunity that Cognos Insight provides everyone who is interested in Analytics.  Download it and give it a try, then contact us for coaching to turn your basic knowledge into rock star knowledge!

Analytics In Sports – Empowering The Nerds

Professional sports teams are changing the game and giving the nerds a chance to shine in the sports arena. After years of sitting on the sidelines, the data loving geeks are influencing everything from the selection of players, to what is being served at the concessions and being sold in the kiosks.  How are they doing this? By leveraging predictive analytics! Teams such as the Oakland A’s, Tampa Bay Rays, and San Antonio Spurs have embraced the use of analytics in sports and are seeing tremendous success.

Here are three ways Analytics can bring championships home:

  • Building the Team: Analytics guide teams on what players to keep and what players to trade to maintain salary caps and create championship contenders.  Last year, Memphis Grizzlies VP of Basketball Operations, John Hollinger, traded star guard Rudy Gay to Toronto. Many were shocked by this move, and some viewed the move as extremely unpopular. But using Hollinger’s own analytical formula, Player Efficiency Rating (PER), the Grizzlies traded for a trio of players that provided the depth of skills needed and saved an estimated $37.2 million dollars in salary costs over 3 years in the process.
  • Building Customized Training: Clothing with imbedded sensors can provide coaches on the field stats on player’s heart rate, fatigue, speed and other data points.  This helps coaches to create unique training programs for each athlete. Companies like ADIDAS have created revolutionary lines like miCoach that track such data.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jw2i4b8znc
  • Improving the Fan Experience: The Tampa Bay Lightning, known for creating an amazing fan experience, are taking it a step further.  They recently purchased analytic software to bring data into the forefront; and from different sources, such as point-of-sale for retail, ticket sales and admissions.  This single analytics platform uses that valuable data to share insights in a seamless manner across the organization.  Analytics will “elevate our team's efficiency and effectiveness in making data-based decisions that impact our overall performance and ability to provide value to our fans,” according to Rob Canton, Executive Vice President, Finance & Strategic Planning, Tampa Bay Lightning.

Today’s analytics in sports is becoming more and more advanced. Organizations that use analytical output to help them make personnel, marketing, sales and salary decisions will be better positioned to win on the ice, court, or field, all the while increasing fan loyalty.

5 Tips to Succeed at Cognos Analytics

With Analytics becoming more mainstream, we still see many companies shying away from it; perhaps because they have been burned by previous attempts. Here are five tips for any organization looking to turn the corner and start to Succeed at Cognos Analytics.

  1. Make data and analysis available to employees: Analytics veterans will tell you there is big value in allowing employees to see and use data. The power transfer that occurs when this is permitted inspires insights in employees’ own work, which helps analytics programs grow and evolve; thereby providing even more value and improvement. Be sure to always ask for users’ assistance and to put some of their ideas to work. These insights will help guide the progression of the project, all while strengthening employees’ commitment to the data analytics strategy.
  2. Return on Investment should be measured early & often: Recording wins from data analytics projects is important; however, it is a bottom line requirement and may not be enough to continue to win budgetary support. Times are tight for organizations of all sizes and in all markets, so when it comes time to verify that dollars were well spent on your data analytics efforts, be sure to include: clear measurements on cost benefit (in dollars), hours of employee time saved (in hours and dollars – and include value of re-assignments), as well as the improved outcomes that were seen (that may not have a direct monetary value i.e. improved employee morale, improved customer satisfaction, etc.).
  3. Hire an expert: Some organizations opt to skip consulting assistance in lieu of pre-recorded training modules and learn to do it themselves for the sake of saving a few bucks. Unfortunately, this mindset causes sluggish returns on the Analytics investment, and we have seen analytics programs get cut for this very reason. Go ahead and get yourself that consultant and ask for a start-up package with training, or better yet, if you can find an expert – HIRE THEM, and then learn from them! Their wisdom and experience can speed your first few projects into quick wins that will help boost data-use culture within your department and maybe across the organization. These wins will also help you continue to get budget allocations, and when word gets around about your success, you may be surprised to see who else from your company comes knocking at your door.
  4. Get to the point: Top executives’ support is vital to keep analytics projects afloat, and the information and insights analysts develop are vital to top executives’ decision making. “Clear, concise and, most of all, brief” should be your mantra if you are presenting at the executive level. Speak as if you are an executive and be sure you are presenting the product of your analysis, and not the analysis itself. In order to get top leaders to support your data analytics program, they must understand the results of your analysis and how they align to achieving the organization’s overall mission(s). This is actually the largest piece we find lacking in the talent pool for analysts – people with statistical and/or data mining experience AND Business Sense.
  5. Seek to envelop the organization in data-use culture: Eventually, analytics will be standard operating procedure in all areas of your organization. However, this will take time and numerous successful analytics projects to win over management at all levels. When this happens, there will be a need for on-the-job analytics training for employees to meet the new demand from management (again – hire an expert!). The return on investment for analytics projects (particularly predictive analytics) is so high that the cost for training and/or hiring an expert ends up paying for itself through speedier results and measurable ROI.

These are just a few highlights from data analytics veterans who have seen just about everything. If you have been reluctant to get started, or feel as if you have been burned before but are still feeling interested – we are happy to help! Contact us at Sales@LodestarSolutions.com.

Data Models better be good for goodness sake!

In case you missed it, IBM let its Data Models sense of humor show in a second blog interview with Santa Claus.

Highlights include:

  • Use of consumer data and moving business from reactive to predictive in many areas
  • Hope for a predictive model so accurate, letters from children are negated, cutting down on cost
  • Decreasing “Pout Scores” – Negative Behavioral Sentiment, better use of children’s time
  • Better forecasting of toy trends, less rush the last few weeks before Christmas
  • Working with Chief Elven Officer (CEO) to infuse analytics throughout the organization
  • Apparently, they keep data in igloos up there instead of servers
  • Mrs. Claus recommending that Rudolph try out a high intensity LED bulb on his nose
  • Using retail and supply chain analytics and optimization best practices

We hope you can appreciate the giggle – and Santa’s good business sense!

You can also check out the first Santa interview here.

 

Happy Holidays to all from the Lodestar Solutions Team!

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