How to build a high performing analytics team?


Having BI capabilities have proven to help organizations improve efficiency and stay ahead in overall competitiveness.  With digital transformation taking over sectors, businesses continue to evolve into data driven models. Each day more businesses are focusing on insights from data that drive better decisions and strengthen customer relationships.

Self-service tools such as Tableau, Alteryx, Qlikview, Power BI etc. have introduced a dash of ease into ways businesses convert their data into insights, making business intelligence (BI) initiatives go mainstream.

Choosing analytics providers, structuring an effective BI ecosystem is easy. The difficulty that decision makers face is building a good quality BI team. In the light of this talent crisis, an accelerating number of companies are motivated to hire any resource they can get, but those approaches mostly go dysfunctional. This not only incurs excessive cost burden for businesses but also makes room of inefficiency leading to the failure of BI endeavors.

Some challenges enterprises face while building BI teams:
•Lack of efficient analytics workforce makes way for inevitable competitive lag.
•It is tough for organizations to fulfil skill development needs of their large teams.
•Technical resources are masters of tools but lack the art of business storytelling with analytics.
•Hiring specific SMEs for varied functions of the BI lifecycle drains budget and keeps ROIs in doubt.
•Businesses waste time over manpower fulfilment when they could be leveraging a BI solution for business gains.
•Longer learning curves because of the diversity of tools and the stern need for accuracy in BI ecosystems
•No accountability for the inevitable technical or team related roadblocks that can appear amidst a BI lifecycle.

The options
Every business has its unique demands when it comes to building a data workforce. A different approach is needed for each instance and there are several ways, to begin with. The first step being gauging the magnitude of the BI initiative and the expectations from it. Once that’s in place businesses can start to make decisions whether to hire, outsource or augment.

Outsource – If it is right for you
Organizations leveraging data for certain projects or for improvements of business processes need not go that way. If BI is a support initiative, partnering with third parties to execute analytics initiatives is the best bet.

Having a full-time in-house analytics team an attractive proposition but is expensive to manage and especially when companies are new to BI and unsure of ROIs. Outsourcing is an easier, faster and cheaper way to jumpstart analytics endeavors for such businesses.

In-house teams – build and improve over time
Large enterprises having data and analytics as their core business strategy need to put all BI components i.e. people, processes, and platforms in place. Certain business models cannot allow data to seep out of the organization? Other than those reasons, if businesses know that once rolled out BI initiatives will not be taken back, they can go ahead and start hiring specialists to build in-house BI teams.

In-house data teams can determine and control data lineage, but how do businesses ensure a perfect team that is capable of translating data into success? The answer is – if candidates have the aptitude for analytics and know a tool well in the BI arena, they are potentially capable of evolving as BI needs of businesses do and make great hires that cannot be easily poached. The major takeaway here is hiring people who are masters of their tool and constantly provide opportunities to learn and grow so that the team is up to date, always.

Extended data teams – The best model so far
Finding a qualified match for any role in the IT industry is not an easy job but with the diversity of tools, processes, and evolution involved in BI presents some unique roadblocks in hiring the right talent for BI endeavors.

There’s a lot of maturation time in hiring an internal team and training them to attain optimum results from a BI initiative. An extended team can help chart a course through BI endeavors, with a flexibility that these teams can be involved at any stage of the BI lifecycle.

Extended teams came into the picture to free businesses of unruly time and monetary investments. They also eliminate the worries of hiring, training, and fear of losing seasoned BI experts. The best part is that as a customer you can call off the engagement, the minute the projects starts to derail, saving cost and time resources



Making Big Data User Friendly For Small Businesses


What do you think of when you think of “big data?”

If you’re like most of us, you probably think of large-scale IT projects. You might think of detailed analytics that are designed to make your head spin.

I mean, who needs to bother with all those annoying numbers, right?

Well, here’s the thing: big data isn’t just for big business. Big data is also important for small businesses.

If you’re not focusing enough on your analytics, you could be missing out on amazing growth opportunities for your business. You might be making decisions that hurt your business.

Big Data And Small Business
Big Data is by no means a new concept for most people in the business world. For many small businesses, the use of data technology has been mostly out of reach due to budget constraints and lack of in-house technical expertise.

If that’s the case for you and your business, you are a part of the 77 percent that don’t yet have a big data strategy. The emergence of self-service solutions, however, has been slowly opening the gates for small businesses and the opportunities to leverage internal data are growing.

Rita Sallam, VP of Research at Gartner, says that there are “approximately 70 percent of users in organizations that currently do not use BI tools or have statistical backgrounds.” Therefore, “New approaches have the potential to transform how and which users can derive insights from data discovery tools.”

If 70% of users were able to leverage big data insights without technical backgrounds, the impact on operations and revenue could be enormous. This is even more true for small businesses, as technical expertise is often siloed in IT departments.

That is why many startups are making data accessible to low-tech businesses. Uday Hegde is the CEO and Co-Founder of USEReady, a data analytics firm that helps businesses implement data solutions.

Hegde believes that self-service data is crucial for making business intelligence a reality for businesses of any size. “As self-service tools become more prevalent, non-technical employees can access data like never before. This helps executives at every level of the organization to conduct analysis and speed up the decision-making process.”

Making Data More User-Friendly
One of the biggest challenges to small businesses that are developing data analytics and business intelligence strategies is the way in which data insights are presented. Complicated excel sheets and poorly designed dashboards make it virtually impossible for non-IT professionals to use their data.

Self-service solutions are working to use better designing practices to help solve this problem. “By making data sets visual, business owners can start asking the right questions and making decisions based on hard facts rather than speculation.” Hegde explains. “The result is often better allocation of crucial technology, people, and resources.” The key is making data presentable so all stakeholders can use it.

A perfect example of how impactful data visualization techniques can be is this video from statistician and TED talker, Hans Rosling.

Zeroing in On the Right Kind of Data
Self-service data solutions are opening up new opportunities for businesses to figure out which data sets are the most useful. The number of vendors looking to help is always growing. Using data tools like Tableau, or CRM software like Hubspot, enable organizations to identify more specific data points to help them evaluate business performance.

Web traffic is a great example. It’s one of the most important pieces of data that a business owner can have. But for most organizations, it fails to offer any actionable insights. When a business owner is able to understand which demographics and customer segments are spending the most time on her website, she can use this data to improve her marketing efforts.

Tracking Year-Over-Year Data
It is not uncommon for small businesses to operate without large amounts of historical data. However, self-service tools are allowing them to collect information over much longer periods of time. This helps business owners create a better picture of long-term growth that goes deeper than traditional revenue or P&L numbers.

By tracking historical data, companies can begin to evaluate the success of key business decisions, both in the short and long-term. Executives can avoid costly errors based on information from previous initiatives that performed poorly. Additionally, they could identify which parts of the business are most profitable and identify new ways to expand those services.

Small businesses that successfully deploy self-service data solutions can enjoy increased profits and reduced risk by identifying problems sooner rather than later. Hegde asserts that “all businesses need a clear data strategy to create a competitive advantage.” As the technology continues to develop and the number of providers catering to businesses of all sizes increase, it can be expected that data will continue to be one of the most important assets an organization can have.

Final Thoughts
Most small business owners assume that “big data” is for “big business.” But it’s not true. If you are able to improve the way your business looks at its metrics, you can make better decisions. You can avoid taking actions that waste time and money. In the end, a better business intelligence strategy will make your company more effective.


Mobile Payments: The Delay of Instant Gratification

Platforms like Apple Pay and Google Wallet will need to ensure a seamless and secure experience for merchants and consumers.

In October 2014, when Apple debuted its iPhone 6 with an electronic wallet called Apple Pay, people immediately began to wonder whether it would overtake its competitors in the mobile payments business. The company has an impressive track record of releasing products and technologies that quickly disrupt and dominate markets. Nearly a year and well over 100 million iPhone 6 sales later, Apple Pay has emerged as the clear leader — but we’re still waiting for disruption. Smartphones have yet to displace cash or credit cards at the retail point of sale.

To put the waiting game for mobile payments into perspective, consider the history of credit cards. They made their first appearance as Diner’s Club Cards in New York City in the 1950s, but it took 28 years for credit cards to be used by 50 million consumers. It took debit cards 12 years and PayPal accounts five years to reach the equivalent penetration level. The same milestone will probably be reached with mobile payments, but to get there, merchants and financial institutions must work together to deliver a seamless experience. Adding further complexity, retailers will need to make a significant investment — an estimated US$8 billion to $10 billion across the industry — to upgrade existing technology.

Countless mobile payment systems are active today — Apple Pay, Google Wallet, the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) CurrentC platform, and so on — but none has yet gained significant traction with merchants or consumers or become the standard for mobile transactions. (See “Competing Mobile Payment Solutions”.) And none of them look likely to seize that role for a while. Several events, all of which took place in early 2015, highlight the rough and rapidly shifting waters ahead for all players: Best Buy, an MCX member, announced it would accept the rival system Apple Pay; PayPal announced it would acquire Paydiant, the underlying technology supporting MCX; and MCX announced that its CEO was stepping down and being replaced.


Apple Pay (Apple)
Launched October 2014


  • Has not attempted to supplant any player in the current ecosystem, which has allowed Apple to create partnerships.
  • Uses a combination of tokenized and biometric security.
  • Has a strong consumer following.


  • Its NFC contactless technology is accessible only to iPhone 6 users.
  • Disabled by some merchants aligned with CurrentC.
  • Is not yet integrated with merchant loyalty programs.

CurrentC (Merchant Customer Exchange, or MCX)
2015 (forthcoming)


  • Uses QR codes and scanners rather than NFC terminals.
  • Is device-agnostic and works with Android and iOS.
  • Uses tokenized security.
  • Allows customers to use points earned at one store at other retailers within the MCX network.
  • Has lower transaction fees for merchants.


  • Privacy concerns over CurrentC’s intentions to share purchasing data with developers, app stores, and phone manufacturers may deter consumer adoption.
  • Requires multistep payment process: opening the app, scanning, and confirming the codes.

Google Wallet (Google)
Launched September 2011


  • Accepts store loyalty cards, gift cards, and coupons.
  • Allows funds transfer through Gmail.
  • Works on hundreds of Android phone models, arguably giving it the broadest global reach.


  • Limited traction with mobile carriers and merchants.
  • Impact of Softcard (the app previously supported by Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile) acquisition unclear.

Samsung Pay (Samsung)
2015 (forthcoming)


  • Partnerships with major credit cards and financial institutions.
  • Proprietary security tokenization technology.
  • Could work with retailers that have not directly signed up.


  • Available only on a limited number of Samsung phones.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of services in the global mobile payments marketplace.
Source: PwC, “Payments on the Go: Making Sense of the Evolving Mobile Payments Landscape,” March 2015

During the next few years, many competitors, from both financial services and the hardware and software industries, will jockey for control of the sector. Payments for retail purchases through smartphone apps still represent a tiny fraction of transactions for the $2 trillion worth of goods and services that pass through retail establishments and banks each year in the United States; still, by 2018 digital wallet transactions will likely grow to represent about 6 percent of total card transactions — the majority being small-ticket purchases made online or within apps. This figure may sound small, but it’s a significant shift: Few would argue that e-commerce isn’t mainstream, yet Internet sales represented only 6 to 7 percent of all retail sales in the United States in 2014.

By 2018, digital wallet transactions will represent about 6 percent of total card transactions.

Globally, mobile payments are making significant inroads, especially in regions where consumers aren’t as accustomed to a physical point-of-sale. In Kenya, M-Pesa, a mobile money service, is used by 19 million people, and 25 percent of the country’s commerce flows through the mobile service. In China, Alibaba now has some 350 million active users. The company reports that close to 80 percent of the transactions on its various platforms are made using mobile payments.

Just as people tend to compartmentalize their use of credit cards — one card for daily purchases, another for big purchases, and several for specialty retail — they are likely to use different mobile payment apps for different brands and different types of transactions. But only a few general-purpose branded e-wallets are likely to be left standing when the industry shakes out; that’s the nature of shared platforms. The companies that ultimately control the mobile payments platform may be technology companies or banks or retailer consortiums, or a combination of all three. The winners will be those platforms that offer five critical elements:

Only a few general-purpose branded e-wallets will be left standing when the industry shakes out.

  1. Merchant acceptance. Apple Pay is accepted at more than 700,000 merchant locations, but that number is less than 10 percent of the 8 million to 10 million merchant locations in the United States. This is significant: Consumers are less likely to use a credit card that’s not accepted everywhere. As a point of contrast to mobile adoption, Visa and MasterCard’s traditional plastic cards are accepted at 99 percent of merchant locations.
  2. Interoperability. In its current version, Apple Pay does not support all cards or merchants; some private-label store credit cards and regional debit networks are excluded. Eighty-three percent of the credit-issuing market had agreed to be part of Apple Pay when it launched, but that left almost 20 percent of the market unsupported. Recently, Apple has started to expand its coverage. For example, the company worked out an agreement with Discover in April 2015 that will give Discover customers access to the app beginning the following fall. Further expansion will be critical if Apple is to ensure that any customer is able to make a transaction from his or her bank.
  3. Security. For consumers and merchants alike, the fear of a breach is currently the number one obstacle to adopting mobile payments. Retailers have taken to heart the experience of Target, whose profits declined 45 percent after its well-publicized security breach in late 2013. The CEO and CIO were let go, and the company spent $250 million, excluding insurance offsets, to address the issue. Apple advanced the game by “tokenizing” the transaction (removing account information from the data flow) and using fingerprint recognition technology. But until end-to-end encryption is in place to secure the entire transaction, security holes will persist. Financial institutions and merchants will continue to battle global criminal sophisticates.

Fear of a breach is the number one obstacle to adopting mobile payments.

  1. Platform integration. Many single-point mobile innovations exist, but they do not fit together seamlessly. One such app is Milo (acquired by eBay in 2010), which performs online searches for specific products in stores near its users’ location. Another app acquired by eBay in 2010, RedLaser, allows consumers to scan a product’s barcode in a store and immediately uncover the lowest price for that product, online or at nearby retailers. Some major retailers, including Starbucks and Walmart, have their own mobile apps with payment capabilities.

At first glance, apps like these may seem to offer little more than convenient electronic credit cards. But an app, compared to a mobile-based website, is a more controllable, customizable handheld environment for the retailer. It enables businesses to better analyze customers even as customers gain more intelligence about products and services. With the people on both sides of the point-of-sale becoming smarter about one another, the behavior of shoppers and retailers is poised to change. As part of this transition, retailer loyalty, reward, and payment programs need to be supported by and integrated into shared mobile payment platforms.

  1. Marketing data integration. Historically, for a variety of reasons, merchants have been unable to consistently and correctly link an individual consumer record directly to every payment transaction. Today, the convergence of the mobile phone, the payment transaction, and the online environment enables companies to track individual customers from the initial marketing impression all the way through the purchase. Those providers that leverage their mobile platforms for one-to-one marketing — before, during, and after a retail payment transaction — will have a leg up on the competition. They can achieve the holy grail of consumer marketing: precise marketing ROI calculations for segments of one. For example, a merchant could send a digital coupon via text and allow consumers to opt in, and then send personalized reminders only to those consumers. The merchant could then track coupon usage from mobile payments to determine the conversion rate and the overall marketing ROI.

Such scenarios hold great promise. But realizing them requires the establishment a complex web of institutional relationships. Who will track the data? Who will store the data? How will different institutions coordinate? Which standards will be used? And what emerging business models can monetize the new value creation? Not all the answers are obvious. But it is clear that traditional banks and financial institutions will find their greatest opportunity by leveraging their data. When financial institutions couple internal data with external data sources, they can begin to help merchants grow their business and provide consumers with a more personalized and robust shopping experience. The winners will convert that data into enhanced solutions across the value chain: targeted local and national offers, multifactor authentication, and security alerts.

The payment providers that stitch together merchant acceptance, mobile solution integration, and marketing fueled by data will be well on their way to success. Once that finally happens — and it will — customer relationships and marketing will never be the same.


Pushing Pay by Phone: Apple, Google Add New Features

The tech industry has been saying for years that smartphones would make traditional wallets obsolete. But most people still use cash or plastic when they shop in stores.

That could change later this year when three leading tech companies are promising to give shoppers more reasons to use “digital wallets.”

Apple said last week that it’s adding store-issued credit cards and store rewards programs to Apple Pay (seen here), the mobile payments service it launched last fall. Google is readying a similar service for millions more smartphones to run on its Android software . And Samsung promises a service for its newest Galaxy smartphones will be accepted in more stores than both Apple Pay and Google’s Android Pay.

“Our ultimate goal is to replace the wallet,” Apple vice president Jennifer Bailey told software developers last week.

The new options come as numbers show mobile payments are still in their infancy: About 16 million U.S. shoppers used smartphones to pay for $3.5 billion in store purchases last year, according to the eMarketer research firm. That includes payments with Apple Pay, other services like PayPal and apps from merchants like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.

While that’s a tiny slice of the $4.3 trillion spent in stores overall last year, eMarketer expects mobile payments will grow to $27.5 billion in 2016.

“We’re still in this very early stage of laying the groundwork to be able to make this happen,” said analyst Brian Yeager at eMarketer. “But there’s progress being made.”

The progress follows years in which the industry has struggled to get digital wallets off the ground as major players failed to agree on technical standards, security measures and financial terms. Some big merchants have balked at services developed by Apple or Google, saying they’d rather build and control their own system.

Still, Apple opened the door for widespread adoption of digital wallets last year when it launched Apple Pay with endorsements from major banks and retail chains. With Apple Pay, which only works on the latest models of iPhones and the Apple Watch, users link a credit card or bank account to their iPhone.

Once that’s done, a user only has to hold the phone next to a device at a store counter. The phone and the store device communicate wirelessly, prompting the user to authorize payment by pressing the phone’s fingerprint sensor instead of swiping a plastic card. Apple Pay uses encrypted codes to protect shoppers’ financial information.

Apple says shoppers and merchants have embraced Apple Pay, although it hasn’t released usage details.

One early fan is Allison Lucas, a 35-year-old tech worker who tapped her Apple Watch to pay for a box of breakfast cereal and other items at a Walgreens store in San Francisco’s Financial District last week.

“You don’t realize how much freedom it gives you until you try it,” said Lucas, who used her watch to pay for lunch on another day when she accidentally left her wallet at home.

But not everyone is convinced they need Apple Pay.

“I might come around and try it at some point, but I haven’t really seen a reason,” said Amalia Bornstein, a 29-year-old data analyst. Though she carried her iPhone 6 in hand as she walked along a busy San Francisco sidewalk, Bornstein said she still uses cash or plastic for most purchases.

Apple says it’s offering more reasons this fall with its next software update, which will let shoppers charge store credit accounts and redeem loyalty points from major chains. Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said frequent shoppers see loyalty rewards as an important benefit, and they want an easy way to use them.

Walgreens expects more customers will pay with smartphones or watches when 80 million members of the chain’s Balance Rewards program will be able to use their loyalty points with Apple Pay, said Ben Weiss, Walgreens mobile products manager. J.C. Penney also is betting iPhone users will want to use their store-label credit cards. Spokeswoman Daphne Avila said the store’s own credit card is used on more J.C. Penney transactions than any other payment card, because customers earn points for every transaction.

Google, which had struggled to win support for its earlier Google Wallet service, says major banks and retail chains have signed on to its new Android Pay. The service will work similarly to Apple Pay when released later this year.

Google says it will incorporate store rewards, but won’t work with store credit cards to start. Android Pay will work on a variety of phones running the two latest versions of Android software — or about half of all Android phones in use.

Samsung, meanwhile, says it’s addressing another hurdle with a service called Samsung Pay, due for release this fall. Unlike rival services Apple Pay and Android Pay, Samsung says its technology will work with traditional store credit-card readers.

Apple Pay and Android Pay only work in stores with equipment capable of receiving data from smartphones via “near-field communication” or NFC radio. But new models of Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones will transmit two kinds of signals — one for NFC readers and one that works with older equipment that merchants use to read the magnetic stripe on credit cards.

Many smaller stores don’t have NFC readers. But Visa and MasterCard are pushing retailers to meet an October deadline for installing new terminals that read cards with embedded microchips, which are more secure than magnetic stripes. While the technologies are separate, many chip-card readers will accept NFC signals too.

Some experts are hopeful the changes will draw more shoppers to use digital wallets. But there remain some big challenges. For instance, Wal-Mart has declined to accept Apple Pay and is part of a consortium working on its own mobile payment system.

“It’s a chicken-and-egg problem,” said Yeager, explaining that shoppers won’t embrace a service if stores won’t accept it, while many stores want to know consumers and banks are backing a system before they invest in new check-out terminals.

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