Who owns your analytics group?

Where you locate an analytics practice within the business may be as critical a success factor as the team’s skills, experts say. Should you embed it within the IT organization, establish it as an independent group, or embed the function within each business unit? Here are the options, the tradeoffs, and how to decide where to locate your analytics team.

Option 1: Run analytics as an IT operation

IT has the data expertise. Integrating the analytics group within IT helps foster a common sense of purpose, and that collaborative relationship may enable faster integration of analytics with other enterprise applications. But unless they can forge a close working relationship with stakeholders, such groups risk producing great models that no one uses.

Analytics groups may also disappear into the IT fabric, says John Elder, principal at consultancy Elder Research. “I wouldn’t embed them in IT because other priorities might take over.” Finally, analytics professionals who work within IT aren’t as well positioned to identify business needs, nor do they tend to be well equipped to sell the value of a model to business stakeholders in plain business language. “We techie people have to do a better job of making the business case for the model and showing that it will pay off. We’re still learning how to do that better,” Elder says.

Option 2: Let each business unit operate its own analytics group

Keeping analysts embedded in and reporting to the individual businesses is one way to make sure projects are aligned with business needs. This approach also facilitates collaboration between analysts and business stakeholders. “The initiator almost always has to be the stakeholder in the business who has the authority to authorize [the project],” says Dean Abbott, president of consultancy Abbott Analytics Inc.

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