Cloud Analytics Is Redefining IT and Business Roles

by   |   January 22, 2014 6:05 am   |   0 Comments

Build.com, an online-only home improvement retailer, recently implemented a cloud analytics application that will help focus sales efforts based on the lifetime value of customers.  The retailer turned to Birst Inc., a vendor of a cloud business intelligence platform, to do much of the heavy lifting.  At the same time, Southard Jones, vice president, product strategy at Birst, took note that the Build.com marketing executive who drove the project beefed up the technology know-how on his staff.

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“He hired someone with 20 years’ experience as a data scientist,” Jones says. “That’s not something you would have seen happen in a marketing department too long ago.”

People often talk about how cloud analytics, and its ability to deliver insights anywhere, anytime, is transforming companies and whole industries. However, experts say less focus is put on how cloud analytics is redefining jobs and roles within and outside IT.

A recent Gartner study found between 15 and 20 percent of chief marketing officers’ operating budgets are spent on marketing technology and technology-related services.  That spurred many headlines about how the differentiation between the CMO and chief technology officer’s roles are becoming fuzzy.  While CMOs have received much of the attention in this regard, other departments are taking a bigger part in IT tasks with the emergence of cloud analytics, as well.

Jive Software, which supports social communities for companies, implemented a cloud analytics system to gain a better view of financial information across the organization.  “The vice president of business operations at Jive unified the entire lead-to-cash process,” Jones says. “She is, in essence, the analytics vice president of the company.” That, he says, is a natural transition in an era where so many companies’ operations hinge on data.

IT Role as Resource Navigator
How is all this affecting IT? “There’s been an 80-20 rule that 80 percent of IT’s time is spent gathering data, and 20 percent analyzing it, but cloud services flip this on its head,” says Hannah Smalltree, director of marketing for Treasure Data, which provides cloud-based data services. “You’re getting to the fun part faster.”

Since cloud vendors theoretically eliminate a lot of the mundane technology tasks, both the IT and business sides are free to operate at a higher level. That goes in tandem with cloud analytics’ ability to provide easier access to data and analytic tools.As IT departments look to become a broker of cloud analytics services for other business departments, they are changing the makeup of the people they need. Experts say the emerging roles in IT help navigate between  internal and external resources—like cloud technologists who have a deep understandig of private and hybrid clouds; and DevOps, teams that blend functions previously done separately by  developers and operations.

Because of the cloud,  the type of people who perform analysis is expanding as well.  “There has been a change in the analyst title,” says Rich Ghiossi, vice president of marketing at Treasure Data. “With the proliferation of analytics, different roles throughout the organization can become experts.”

In the marketing department, Ghiossi notes, business analysts can be more narrowly segmented, charged with, say,  watching how the global financial markets affect supply chain operations. “You get finer grain models,” he says.

The Sales Department Rushes to Catch Up
While many business functions are seeing their roles alter because of cloud analytics, perhaps none is changing at a more dizzying pace than sales departments.  Departments like customer care and customer service were more rapid to embrace metrics and analytics, and the sales function is coming late to the party—but with a huge emphasis to try to catch up.

Once upon a time, when salespeople sold in the ruthless “Glengarry Glen Ross” way, they were easy to manage. You gave them the product, the pricing, and sent them off. It was very Darwinian. They either made the numbers or they didn’t.

Cloud Analytics: Organizational Takeaways

• The cloud’s strategic importance to decision-makers, such as CEOs, CMOs, finance, HR and procurement executives, is rising faster than their IT counterparts, according to an IBM study. Don’t expect them to wait.

• Cloud analytics can boost IT morale because outsourcing reduces mundane tasks and lets workers focus on more impactful tasks. Think in terms of value-added hiring rather than nuts-and-bolts.

• The business side’s demand for analysis is insatiable. As cloud analytics put knowledge at the fingertips of more people, expect them to want more.

• Cloud analytics can reinvent customer relationships—and change the roles and responsibilities of everyone in the organization who interacts with customers.

Cloud analytics is changing what salespeople are responsible for and how they are managed.  For example, Jive software is implementing a cloud-based BI system that analyzes all the interactions salespeople have with customers, such as how their communications with customers affect deal rates.

The company is arming salespeople with all sorts of information they can access with self-service tools—like the number of times customers have logged onto and used trial accounts, providing insight on what accounts are better to pursue.

However, the information provided by cloud analytics doesn’t simply make salespeople more efficient in pursuing leads. It is changing the nature of their jobs, because cloud analytics provides a deeper understanding of a customer’s entire relationship with the company. In fact, companies are 136 percent more likely to use the cloud to reinvent customer relationships, according to a new IBM survey.

Consider Adobe, the maker of marketing and graphics programs. In the past, Adobe released new products every 18 months and sold through resellers, resulting in a distant relationship with customers. Three years ago, Abode moved to a cloud-based model, where customers can purchase subscriptions to a cloud that sells marketing tools or a cloud that sells creative programs.

This has significantly changed how Adobe interacts with customers. Because customers interactions are constant, the company needs rapid insight into those interactions—for example, a salesperson calling on a customer needs to know how they have responded to a recent campaign, says Prasad Bhandarkar, director of Adobe Information Services.

Because salespeople in any company that uses cloud analytics can go to a client meeting with the ability to access  information on his mobile device about the client’s complete relationship with the company, he can enlarge his role to a more trusted consultant.

For example, he has access to supply chain information that will prepare him for a customer’s complaints about deliveries.  The IBM study found 79 percent of companies are more likely to rely on cloud to locate and leverage expertise anywhere in the ecosystem for deeper collaboration. As a result, the salesperson can suggest bundled products and discounts based on the full relationship with the company.

“The biggest thing business intelligence brings you is that you are prepared going into a customer,” says Howard Dresner, a consultant. “With cloud analytics, you have all the information at your fingertips. Before, it was always a challenge for the salespeople to know the presence of the customers, because it could touch so many parts of the organization.”

And as cloud analytics touches even more parts of the organization, it will continue to help redefine roles and responsibilities within the enterprise.

Joe Mullich, a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, can be reached at joe@joemullich.com.

Home page image via Thinkstock.








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