DI Day: Does analytics work in an agile organisation?

Data Insight’s very first DI Day welcomed an array of inspiring speakers. One of the members of our ‘Leaders in Data Transformation’ panel, Alex Tran, shared the lessons learnt on working Agile, a hot topic in organisations today.

Alex is the general manager of commercial for Genesis Energy who are renowned for the amazing things they’re doing through leveraging the power of agile.

Having embarked on the journey towards agile three years ago, Alex was able to delve into how Genesis learnt and adapted to make agile work for them. Alex shared that most importantly, Genesis ‘want to be agile and not just do agile.’

For Alex, being agile boils down to three things:

  1. The permission to fail
  2. The license to create
  3. The expectation to succeed

Initially, Genesis had a structure where each analyst was dispersed into a different squad, working as fast as possible to deliver on customer needs. This generally resulted in quick, short term extracts and analysis.

They soon recognised that there was a missing piece concerning the foundation of analytics. Fundamentals such as churn propensity modelling and customer lifetime value couldn’t be achieved with analysts isolated in different teams. After 6 months, the Genesis team identified that in order to solve these essential problems, they needed to facilitate collaboration, harnessing the analyst’s collective brainpower and skillsets to create unique value.

We want to be agile and not just do agile.

Alex Tran

Alex shared, “We realised that we would create more value if we pulled the analysts back together and created our own squad. I think the lesson learned here is that we’re still taking all the principals of agile in terms of how do we prioritise the backlog and curate and managing the conversations with stakeholders. However, we want to make the concept of agile work for us, not for us to act as the servant of a concept.”

When faced with the question, ‘does agile help or hinder the use of data in organisations?’ Alex stated that, “every operating model works and doesn’t work in a way, the key is to learn and iterate.” Essentially, you can’t just find the perfect operating model and simply install it into your company.

As with introducing anything new into your company, the whole process is very dependent on culture. In a field infused with a natural sense of scepticism, where data analysts are taught to trust in the numbers, it takes courage to get the sceptics on the journey. However, Alex added that: ‘Once you get those people on board they will be the biggest supporters.’

There is no doubt that agile methods encourage efficiency, predictability and high-quality delivery. Although the transformation to agile might not be simple, as Alex pointed out, “the message here is go big or go home – you need to push and iterate until it works. If it isn’t working for you, then change it.”

If you need help with analytics in an increasingly agile world, contact our Client Director, Alex: alex.wardle@datainsight.co.nz