Ken Rudin of Facebook On Analytics And Team Building

David Rathbun

Analytics TeamDuring a recent Inside Analysis webinar, Wayne Eckerson, founder of the BI Leadership Forum, and Ken Rudin, director of analytics at Facebook, discussed how companies should approach analytics. I found three of their points particularly interesting.

  • Focus on impact not insights. Analytics organizations and analysts need to promote the importance of measuring the right business components to achieve meaningful results. It’s more effective to track results tied to your business strategy than to make observations about the data.
  • Focus on the questions you want answered not the answers. In order to get the right data, focus more on what questions to ask rather than the answers you receive. In other words, if you ask the right questions, you gain greater insight into your customers.
  • Be an analytics evangelist not an oracle. Good analysts need to understand the business they support. You need to be able to influence and, in some cases, sell leadership on new approaches and strategies. Rudin recommends embedding analysts in the lines of business instead of a centralized organization that operates from the outside.

Building an Analytics Team

Rudin also discussed how he’s building a strong analyst team at Facebook. When hiring from the outside, he asks candidates to:

  • Prove their business savvy, technical abilities, and sales/communication skills
  • Describe a former employer’s strategy and business model
  • Explain a sophisticated analysis they’ve completed
  • Share an example where they showed leadership, either personally or professionally

Since the market is tight for skilled analysts, Rudin also developed a two-week embedded, immersion program to create analysts. The program develops the analytics skills of current employees who are already comfortable working with data, such as product managers.

What are your thoughts on where analysts should reside in an organization? Should they be a part of the division or line of business they support? Can they be effective as part of an external organization that offers a service?

How do you attract and retain strong analysts? How do your analysts impact the growth of your business?


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What’s Holding Your Business Back? Try This 12-Point Action Framework

Bob Apollo

Business FrameworkWhat would happen if you were able to double your sales and marketing resources overnight? Assuming that you haven’t already saturated your target market, how confident are you that you could at least double your revenues – and how long would that take? What if you were able to quadruple your resources?

This question often poses a problem for B2B-focused organisations with long and complex sales cycles, or for sales teams that have a long history of relying on sales heroics. Without a well-defined, scalable sales and marketing process, no matter how much resource you can throw at the market, you’ll inevitably struggle to attract, engage, qualify and convert enough of the right sort of prospects.

The challenge is particularly acute for growth-phase organisations that are trying to “cross the chasm” from early adopters to mainstream markets, and for established organisations that are wrestling with increasingly competitive markets. It’s hard – some would say impossible, in today’s business climate – to break free of these constraints unless you have managed to establish a truly scalable, repeatable and reliable sales and marketing machine – a machine that is continually improving its return on the resources already being deployed.

No wonder Chief Executives are cautious about adding fresh headcount until they can be sure they will deliver the expected return on investment. No wonder marketing budgets are coming under increasing pressure to prove the value they are creating for the business. No wonder the gap between top sales performers and their average peers is widening dramatically. Relying on creativity, hard work and heroics isn’t enough.

We’ve been using a 12-point framework with some success with our clients. You can download the full executive briefing here. But in the meantime, here’s an abridged version – albeit still rather long for a blog article:

1: Clarify your market focus

It’s challenging to get the most out of your sales and marketing resources unless everyone across your organisation shares the same understanding of the market or markets you have chosen to address – yet it’s all too common to find sales and marketing resources being dissipated on audiences that are outside your sweet spot. Without absolute clarity in your market focus, it’s hard to construct a scalable sales and marketing machine.

2: Concentrate on your prospect’s most valuable issues

Your focus needs to go further: you need to particularly concentrate on those issues that:

  • Are so vital to the prospect that they are bound to spend money on dealing with them, AND
  • That your organisation can address better than any other option available to the prospect

If the issue is not seen to be vital (or if you cannot persuade your prospect that it is), your prospect might engage you in an extended sales conversation, but you run the real risk that they will never buy anything.

3: Play to your unique strengths and advantages

It’s important to educate your market, particularly in situations where your prospect may not initially recognise the issue that you have chosen to address, or may not yet realise the consequences of not dealing with it – and the importance of addressing it.

Thought leadership is important. It’s an essential element of market leadership. In fact, thought leadership often precedes market leadership, and for this reason, it’s not unusual to see B2B organisations invest significant money and resources in such programmes.

But, if your ultimate goal is to sell more of your products and services, this investment in education must have a purpose: it must play to your strengths. It must draw your prospect’s attention to issues and consequences you can solve better than any other option available to them.

4: Identify with your ideal prospects

Today’s top-performing organisations recognise that here’s no point in marketing – or selling – to companies or individuals that are never likely to buy, or that have no power to influence buying decisions. It simply diverts resources away from attracting, engaging, qualifying and converting more of the right sort of prospects.

Getting your marketing and sales teams to agree – and document – what an “ideal prospect” looks like will have a dramatic effect on the productivity of both organisations. Marketing will be far less likely to generate “leads” that the sales team doesn’t want to follow up. Sales people will be far more likely to convert well-qualified opportunities into customers (and to enjoy much shorter sales cycles).

5: Track and target key trends and trigger events

Few sales and marketing organisations have fully realised the potential of key trends and trigger events in predicting buying behaviour – or in helping to identify their most valuable potential prospects.

For as long as your prospect remains satisfied with the status quo, whilst they might continue to absorb your messages and materials, they are not yet ready to acknowledge the need for change. But sooner or later, something will happen. There will a change in circumstances at the individual, company or market level that causes them to recognise that whatever they are doing today isn’t going to be good enough for the future.

We call these changes “trigger events”, and identifying and understanding them will be of vital importance in constructing your scalable sales and marketing machine. If you are able to engage you prospect when they undergo a trigger event – even better if you can help them to recognise that one has happened – your chances of winning their business are at least 5 times higher than if you don’t get involved until later on in the process.

6: Understand your prospect’s buying decision process

According to the latest global study by CSO Insights, fewer than 20% of B2B sales organisations have the discipline to continually track specific buying behaviours in order to assess the true state of their pipelines. More than half of the companies surveyed rely on sales activity alone and fail to require any externally verifiable evidence of buying intent before allowing sales people to promote opportunities from one stage to the next.

Given this background, it should hardly come as a surprise that sales forecast accuracy remains such a challenge, with on average less than half of forecasted opportunities closing at the time or value originally projected – with many never closing at all, or ending instead in the prospect deciding to “do nothing”.

No other business function would tolerate such inaccuracy. And there’s absolutely no excuse for the sales department to do so. Because the CSO Insights study also found that sales organisations that had the discipline to insist on sales people providing tangible evidence of their prospect’s buying behaviour won 40% more of their forecasted opportunities than the average sales organisation.

7: Align your marketing and sales process with your prospect’s buying process

You now need to define an integrated marketing and sales process that is fully aligned with each key stage in the evolution of your prospect’s buying journey.

Note that I deliberately refer to implementing a single integrated marketing and sales process. Scalable sales and marketing machines necessarily have to be built around a unified lead-to-revenue cycle that eliminates any disconnects or discontinuities between your marketing and sales operations.

8: Implement progressive opportunity qualification

Inadequate sales qualification causes a spectacular amount of wasted effort. Sales people frequently (and sometimes habitually) expend a great deal of personal effort and company resources on opportunities that are unlikely ever to buy anything, unlikely to choose their company as a supplier, or unlikely to ever be profitable even if they do buy.

In complex, high-value B2B sales environments, qualification cannot be a one time event – it must be managed as a continuous process that recognises that the prospect’s situation, needs and priorities can change over time, and that our view of how attractive the opportunity is to us can be significantly affected by things we learn about the prospect.

9: Insist on every sales and marketing activity having an intended outcome

According to research published by a variety of analysts, the vast majority of marketing materials and sales tools created by the average marketing department have no appreciable impact on the prospect’s buying decision – whether directly, or in terms of making the sales person more effective.

Your prospects don’t care what you do – they care about how you can make them more successful. Yet many marketing messages and sales conversations achieve the opposite – they serve to promote the vendor’s company or their offerings. And they do nothing to advance the prospect’s buying decision process.

10: Measure the metrics that matter – and act upon them

Just as you would not dream of driving a modern car without the benefit of a clear and accurate dashboard, your sales and marketing process requires accurate, effective instrumentation if you are to achieve your goals and systematically drive your company-wide performance to the next level.

Without accurate, timely measurement, there can be no improvement. Your goal in defining and measuring the metrics that matter must be to show you where you are on track, and where you are falling behind, so that you can make adjustments while you still have the opportunity to affect the outcome.

11: Systematically identify and eliminate bottlenecks and roadblocks

Like any factory, every sales and marketing machine suffers from potential bottlenecks and roadblocks that, if they can be addressed, offer the potential to directly improve revenue performance. These bottlenecks may relate to resource shortages – or they may just as likely indicate inefficient processes.

Experienced sales and marketing managers probably have an instinctive view of where things tend to slow down or get stuck – but having access to the right sort of metrics (see the previous principle) can help to home in on the real issues – and the true root cause of the problems.

12: Proactively manage sales pipelines and forecasts

Last, but by no means least, how can you apply the lessons learned to systematically improve your management of your sales pipeline and your forecasting processes? It should come as no surprise that I recommend that you manage your pipeline with reference to the key phases in your prospect’s buying decision process, or that you carefully monitor stage-to-stage conversions and deal velocity.

But proactive pipeline management isn’t just about monitoring your progress (or lack of it) against defined metrics. It’s also about data quality – ensuring that you are achieving high (and growing) levels of information completeness, accuracy and relevance.


I hope that you’ve been sufficiently inspired by at least some of these 12 initiatives to imagine what you might achieve if you were to apply them to your own organisation, and that you’re more motivated than ever to implement a truly scalable sales and marketing process.

But I want to share a few words of caution. None of these initiatives are miracle cures. They require discipline and focus – and you’ll need to evangelise them to your staff, and to help them recognise that this is not just another fad, but an approach from which everyone can benefit.

Scalability can’t be achieved without process

They also require a respect for process that some organisations that have been brought up on a diet of heroic selling find difficult to adapt to until and unless they come to realise that their current approach has – or is about to – run out of runway. But scalability can’t be achieved without process.

If you’re interested in the full story, you can download the complete executive briefing here. You might also like to try our 10-minute on-line self-assessment of the above 12 initiatives here. I’d welcome your reaction to these concepts.

Note: This blog post is from one of our featured guest bloggers, Bob Apollo, and has been modified slightly from its original form with Bob’s consent.  The original post can be found on Bob’s blog here.


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IT Under Big Data Barrage

Irfan Khan

Hollywood loves explosions. Few scenes offer more bang for the buck, literally, than a battle scene where a soldier screams “Incoming!” just as bombs start falling from every direction.

CIOs must feel like that soldier when they look at not just the volume of data, but the type and source of data raining down on their organizations. They are under siege, and most of them lack the technology to fight back.

IT Under Big Data BarrageSource: Marion Doss/Flickr

We all know the amount of information enterprises are collecting. It’s huge. In one of the more recentstudies published on big data in large organizations, the Aberdeen Group found the median amount of active business data companies used was 150 terabytes with 17% of firms working with more than a petabyte. The research showed that the average data growth was 42% year-over-year, but one-fifth of organizations reported growth rates of more than 75%.

This study revealed something even more interesting: the number of distinct data sources. According to Aberdeen, companies average 28 sources of incoming data: 14 from internal operations, nine from partners and five from outside their business ecosystem.

All those disparate sources confound IT’s ability to help the company make use of – or make sense of – the information pouring in. That’s why the report revealed that 45% of companies are still dealing with data formats that make data analysis a major hurdle and that 39% lament that data remains “siloed” and inaccessible for analysis.

Ultimately, the varying data sources, formats and silos lead to the most astonishing number of all: 23%. That’s the amount of data enterprises control that is available for analysis.

Think about it. Less than one-fourth of the information inside a company is available for analytical scrutiny. Undoubtedly there are business reasons unique to each organization for this analysis gap. However, the report does unintentionally reveal one reason: IT is slow to adopt technology that addresses the problem. That’s true for even well-established technologies such as columnar or in-memory databases.

According to Aberdeen’s research, only 29% of companies have installed columnar databases and only 14% have adopted in-memory databases, such as SAP HANA, that can handle large volumes of data and process it more rapidly than traditional database systems. And a mere 11% have begun working with MapReduce/Hadoop in their analytics infrastructure, which would help companies analyze their unstructured data sources.

It’s not surprising, then, to learn that enterprises are capable of analyzing only a fraction of their data today. When organizations rely on legacy systems, they’re not likely to solve age-old compatibility and access problems. And they are not likely to achieve the insights that big data analytics deliver.


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Social Learning Leadership: A New Panacea For Ignorance?

Meghan M. Biro

English: Logo for the Addicted to Social Media...A dear friend’s TWINS (yes all caps) just entered a prestigious New England university. They are bright, driven, focused students and they’ll do well.

They’d better, because it will cost my friend north of $100K a year to keep them in New England college splendor. Smiles.

It would have been more costly at Harvard, which provides 2012-13 cost guidelines for undergraduates in excess of $62,000. Of course a recent graduate, if he or she were fortunate enough to find a full-time job (almost half are not so lucky, according to a recent study) might expect to receive an annual salary of $42,000. Not much when you add in an apartment, or a car, or an IRA, or student loan repayments.

No wonder so many college graduates still live at home (spoiler career alert – they’ll need that IRA?)  Heaven help you if your student holds a degree in fine arts or journalism. Don’t say no one warned you on this career move these days. Always a risky proposition so do your homework please.

Perhaps as leaders we need to re-examine the learning business or the business of learning. On the job, in your career, which part of your studies contributes to success? I’m betting the semester in Prague has yet to pay dividends, and the minor degree in psychology, while it may enable you to pop-diagnose personality disorders in co-workers, hasn’t helped you get a report done, contributed to critical thinking skills necessary to problem-solve, or helped when you needed a Word or Excel shortcut.

In short, classroom learning – what the experts call formal learning – has limits. I’m a believer in the value of an education but it has limits and our system is in need of care and social innovation. Anyone who’s slogged through 12 years plus in the classroom will agree. Then there’s informal learning – stuff you do on your own, for the most part. Read any good business books lately? Ah, no, ok then.

Finally, **queue social learning** like so much else today it’s an outgrowth of social media. I’ve been living the social learning lifestyle online for a few solid years now (plus actually – I’m in denial). I host two chats on Twitter that are dedicated to the World of Work and HR Technology = Social Learning Leadership in ACTION.

The good news: it turns out companies are looking at social learning, and many are opting away from classroom, which they can control but which costs money – part-time classes at Harvard run around $5K per class per semester, for example – and also forgoing informal learning, where they tell an employee they’d better read a certain book and be prepared for the pop quiz. These days everything is social, so why not social learning?

Who knew all that time at Starbucks was finally going to pay off?

Social learning, as my friend Sharlyn Lauby points out, happens pretty much anywhere, with or without social (media) tools. Remember when you started a job at a tech company, tried to query a database, and had no idea what MySQL was? Bet someone helped you, gave you just enough info to get the job done without worrying about making you an expert. Then you passed that skill on at an all-hands meeting. Voila, social learning!

Social learning takes the relaxed nature of informal learning and the expertise and rigor of classroom learning to make something more suited to 2012-13 on-the-job learners. It adds the context of the workplace, subtracts the expense of the classroom, and informs the experience with the social element so necessary in today’s interactions.

Bingo, as they say. I’m a big fan of Twitter as a classroom for social learners.

So Let’s Celebrate Five Advantages of Social Learning Leadership:

1) Social learning advantages millennials while also benefitting other age cohorts. It’s a multi-generational party! Let’s face it, if you run a company, HR or internal training, you need to manage all the generational populations, but you’re probably biased to the needs of the millennials, the generation inheriting the jobs and wisdom of Boomers. Very little downside here – you’re covering the entire employee population, at a lower price point than classroom learning.

2) Social learning is not time-constrained. No need to call a two-day training that takes out 75 percent of the department. Make it social, create many entry points and create a rewards system to ensure most employees participate. Don’t worry about the hold-outs – they will, in time, pick up the knowledge gained by those who took the class (see informal training.)

3) Social learning encompasses an explicit and visible rewards system for those who participate. Everyone wants the gold star, real or virtual. Making the award visible across the employee population, using social media, is common sense.

4) Links to business value must be explicit.People need to know their contributions are valued by the organization. Social leaning is no exception. You will need to construct a value-investment chain; many organizations, free or fee, can help.

5) Social learning is strategic, not tactical.Sure it’s a tactical benefit when someone learns to code a spreadsheet formula without taking a three-day class. But look for strategic value: an employee who attends Edward Tufte’s visual presentation of data seminar has enormous value. His or her ability to present quantitative information in a visually appealing form will reinvigorate employees who can’t go to the seminar but are bored to death with PowerPoint or Prezi.  Invest in social learning in such a way that all learning becomes social, even when it begins in the classroom. Make it creative and engaging to your audience.

Finally, remember that creating a learning environment is an exercise in smart workplace culture, and an investment in creating competitive advantage for your company or your community.

Social is the how, not the whyFocus on the how, and social learning will make sense.

Image: Logo for the Addicted to Social Media Blog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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In Honor Of Some Brilliantly Creative Work

Steve Olenski

Most of the time I write about a study or survey and how the findings may impact a marketer or advertiser or brand manager, brand manager or your local butcher.

Not really on the local butcher part, just making sure you’re still with me.

But generally I like to dive into a study or survey and dissect its findings or I’ll interview a C-level person or essentially anything related to advertising, marketing,
branding and social media – and the potential confluence therein.

However, I am a creative person at heart, a writer specifically. Can’t draw a stick figure to save my life. I have a deep appreciation and respect for quality (IMHO) creative. The kind of creative work that makes me sit up and take notice in admiration and appreciation.

Having said that I want to share with you three (3) examples of recent creative work that I found to be first rate, top notch and downright entertaining.

The first is for/from K-Mart who decided to take advantage of the fact that – according to the National Retail Federation almost 36 percent of Americans say their biggest source of Halloween costume inspiration comes from what they see in retail stores or costumer shops.

They, along with their agency, created an ad in the parking lot of Kmart’s Addison and Kimball location in Chicago and invited the neighborhood to watch dancer and America’s Got Talent contestant Monternez “Monty” Rezell, from the Chicago Hip Hop dance crew Stick and Move, dance his way through eight hours of costume changes. Why eight hours? Because that’s what it would take to set the Guinness World Record for most costume changes. Each costume consisted of at least three pieces, and Monty needed to change into each costume unassisted and remain in it for at least 5 seconds.

Monty danced, posed and dressed his way into the record book. Monty succeeded in breaking the Guinness World Record for most costume changes in an 8 hour period. Kmart’s large selection of 3,000 Halloween costumes and accessories supported this world record effort.

Not a lot of hits on YouTube, yet but it’s only been up about a week. Either way, I think it’s brilliant.

Next is a series of ads from Adobe. The first spot deals directly with the utterly ridiculous widespread use of marketing jargon or buzz phrases that far too many marketers are prone to use and you’ll see the consequences of using said vernacular.

This next one shows a CMO slapping a fellow exec for having the audacity to claim that “measuring ROI on social media is a myth.” Sure enough the slap-riddled exec eventually comes around to see the proverbial light.

Ann Lewnes, chief marketing officer at Adobe Systems told the New York Times that the language used in the spots is “a bold and provocative way to get attention.” And she clearly realizes the need to stand out from her competitors also adding “… in this crowded space, with a lot of competition, the intent is to break through, jolt the market.”

The final piece of creative I want to share is not an ad per se, at least I don’t think it is. It’s more of a PR stunt or idea that I think is truly fabulous and brilliant and executed flawlessly.

It’s a promotional tie-in between Coke Zero and the new James Bond movie, Skyfall. From the YouTube posting:

“Coke Zero challenged unsuspecting train passengers to unlock the 007 in them for their chance to win exclusive tickets for the new James Bond movie SKYFALL.  However, the exclusive tickets weren’t free. People had to go the extra mile and unlock their inner 007 in less than 70 seconds to win.”

I have to tell you as a creative, I would have loved to have worked on any or all of these spots for the simple reason they are fun; they are different; they are what creative should be, again IMHO.

I know that good creative is only good if it moves product, sells stuff and so on. I get that. And the jury is still out to see if any of these will be considered financially beneficial to the respective advertisers but for right now, let’s bask in the glow of some killer creative, shall we?

Sources: New York TimesMashable, Google Images

Named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred, Steve Olenski is a senior content strategist at Responsys, a leading global provider of on-demand email and cross-channel marketing solutions. 


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