Selling More by Enabling Great Analytics and Reports
One of the questions that isn’t asked that often is, “Who benefits from the rise of analytics?”
It’s accepted as a given and as important.
But to whom and why?
I want to propose that 1) Despite the rhetoric, there are a key set of constituents who have not fully embraced analytics; b) describe a clear benefit to them based on the real users of analytics.
Who are not fully embracing analytics?
There’s a subset of IT vendors, typically those providing appliance-based solutions for network and security, who don’t have advanced analytics. It’s understandable. Like all companies, they have a resource constraint, and they’d rather focus on making their product itself the best it can. These solutions are often competing on performance and feature-sets, so resources go towards improving core functionality.
Reporting is not typically perceived as a core functionality and is a different skillset from those building the primary product.
As a result, the analytics into the company’s own data and making it rich and flexible, is under-resourced. Either nothing is done at all, or the implementation is poor.
A common justification is that the reporting or analytics isn’t what is asked for – there’s no demand – and here’s where I think there’s an error.
Who typically uses analytics?
Managers and sometimes executives are the ones who commonly need acces to analytics. These may be high-level business analytics for most executives. But certainly could be relevant IT analytics, particularly if meaningful and customizable to meet the needs.
For example, a firewall or security appliance, to those in charge of security, must do its primary job. But a manager would want analytics to understand what types of behavior or trends are occurring. This shifts the value of the actual device to a higher level.
This is important: if demand is only measured by that generated by the typical purchaser and a lower level, one could find the evidence supporting no demand for analytics.
However, if selling one click higher in the chain and rolling a “trend and historical analysis” component into whatever you are providing, now you are improving your sales posture.
The real benefit of adding analytics comes from the shift in audience
The real benefit for those group that is overlooking the benefits of adding powerful analytics into their systems is in the way the solution gets position to higher-level decision-makers. These real-time dashboards are the “eye-candy” which can allow your sales teams to have a discussion around trends, patterns, forecasts, historical analysis – rather than just speeds and feeds. When done at an incremental investment of engineering (the hard part is already done – performing the tasks and generating the data), this could potentially yield huge upside for the sales organization by selling higher and selling with greater value.
So what gets in the way?
Suppose they make the calculation that it is important, what gets in the way? Why are so many reporting components so terrible (meaning inflexible, not incorporating different modules, etc?).
The reason is because more reporting is done wrong for these systems. They use a relational database with fixed schemas. This often results in reports that are too high-level (summarization), too slow (poor design and queries), and too slow to build (back to the fixed schemas). For these IT solutions with high volumes of data with complex configurations, a normal relational database won’t cut it, and it ends up becoming something that isn’t agile, dynamic, or cost-effective.
The solution: come-up with the right underlying infrastructure to makes those blockers go away and to then sell higher in the organization more quickly.
Because analytics is important to higher-level decision-makers, if you are an IT appliance that doesn’t have awesome “eye-candy,” the people who should care is your sales management.