The Most Undervalued Analytics Tool: Communication [Across Departments]

In this series of posts, I look at how you can communicate better within your team, with other departments, with executives and with external partners. My advice is based on what I’ve found successful in my own experience. Have other ideas to improve communication? Please add them in the comments, or email me

Part 2: Communication across departments

While communication amongst analysts can be lacking, communication across departments can also cause challenges. Where departments aren’t communicating, analysts can’t be effective because they have no idea what’s going on. There’s often a perception that analysts just need to stare at the data, and insights will magically materialise. However, it is impossible to provide any impactful analysis without an understanding of business goals, recent initiatives and changes that might have impacted the data. Analytics needs to become tightly integrated with other departments for analysts to be able to provide true value.

So how can you improve on this?

1. Get integrated. Yes, easier said than done. But it needs to happen. As an individual, there’s nothing to stop you befriending someone from another department and setting up a weekly or monthly lunch. You’ll get the inside scoop on what they’re working on, and be able to talk about the value you could add that they might be unaware of.

Location can play a role too. I have seen success from analysts sitting with the product team, rather than with the analytics team. These weren’t decentralised analysts (they were still a part of the analytics team) – they were just physically located in a different part of the building. In my case, I was responsible for web and advertising analytics, and actually shared an office with the advertising product manager. Between having in-office discussions, overhearing phone conversations, and getting last minute, “Hey, you should be in this meeting” invites, something as simple as where my desk was had a huge influence on my ability to make an impact.

2. Right place, right time – aka meetings. Yes, we all hate meetings. But too often, analysts don’t know about projects until it is too late, where their insight could have added significant value during discovery and planning. By becoming better integrated with other departments and getting in the right meetings, you’ll be able to make those contributions (and get invited to further crucial meetings.)

So how do you get invited, if you’re not currently being looped in? If you hear about a meeting where you think you could contribute, see if you can invite yourself along. (And then, you know, make sure you actually contribute.) Consider the long-term value of your involvement, and avoid the all-too-tempting “but I’m too busy to attend more meetings…” The more you’re involved and show the benefit of that involvement, the more they’ll want to involve you.

3. Prove the value. This one is simple. As you start contributing and providing valuable insight, other departments and stakeholders will want more. If you give stakeholders valuable information, help them make better decisions and make them look better, they’ll want you involved all the time. So don’t wait for requests – be proactive, see where you can add value (after all, no one knows it better than you!) and just do it. Once you prove your value, you’ll have the opposite problem – they’ll want to integrate you into everything they do.

4. Bribery. Let’s say you need the help of another department to execute on something you need. I’m not ashamed to admit it – I resort to bribery.

On the client side, I worked with our Enterprise Data Warehouse teams on some large data warehousing and BI projects. This team was always swamped and had a backlog that could truly take them years to get through, and my request was just one of many. So I focused on building a relationship with the team. I attended their scrum meetings, to make sure I was there to speak to questions about what I needed built (in a timely fashion.) Soon I was invited to their team lunches and happy hours. I even brought in treats for them when I knew I was asking a lot from them. (See? Bribery.) And you know what? Things I needed got prioritized. Moral of the story? You get more projects completed with cookies than you do with yelling!

Bribery probably sounds bad, but it really comes down to just showing others that you appreciate what they are doing for you. Yes, it’s “their job”, but a little appreciation goes a long way.

Next post: Communication with executives and stakeholders 

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