Bridging the gap between analytics and business needs

By embedding analytics into daily operations, utilities can enhance operational performance, proactively solve problems and improve decision making.
Published: Wed 25 May 2016

As the quantity of data from smart meters and sensors grows in complexity, utilities need to find a way in which to harness the best value from it which will create opportunities for impressive market differentiation. Analytics, if carried out correctly, can certainly give the utility business an advantage over others in a competitive data rich environment. [Big Data and Analytics for Next Gen Utilities.]

Many organizations undertake ad-hoc analytic projects to find meaningful insights in vast volumes of data.  Probability of discovering previously unknown insights is high; however, the impact delivered from these projects is still low. 

Naveen Maheshwary, AVP - Capability Development and Embedded Analytics at EXL, told Engerati in an interview that the delivery of substantial business and customer outcomes depend on how businesses embed analytics into their daily operations.

He explains: “Once you leverage analytics to deliver day-to-day insights into what, why, how, and when of business delivery, you can support decision making, make operations more predictable and ascertain future impact. Analytics should be embedded into operations instead of keeping it outside and used for need-based projects only.”

Challenges in embedding analytics in operations

While the benefits of embedding analytics are manifold, most organizations are not yet able to operationalize analytics, as they hit a roadblock in determining which data to collect, what questions to answer and how to easily explain the analytics insights to stakeholders for action.  

He explains that the biggest challenge is to translate business problem into a statistical problem and convert an analytics insight into a business solution so that necessary changes can be made.

“Statistical jargons often impact the delivery of insights, hence, it is important for the analytics team to deliver information in a way that operations team appreciate and turn them into actionable insights. Business management need easy-to-understand information which focuses on putting users of the information in control; enabling them to convey meaningful data-driven story and to take actions quickly based on delivered information.” 

Another challenge is that generally analytics team do not have domain expertise. “Analytics resource typically don’t understand the dynamics of utility industry, hence, analytics solutions built might not entirely address the real business problem, it -domain knowledge help analysts to ask the right questions.”

Maheshwary says that this is where EXL sets itself apart in the market. EXL realizes the importance of marrying domain expertise with analytics and identifies right domain experts who have inclination towards data. These resources are trained on analytics tools and techniques, big data ecosystem and project management. This synergy of data and domain helps them to understand business problems clearly, convert them into statistical problems and deliver actionable insights in an easy-to-digest format.

A third challenge is that middle management doesn’t always understand the true business value of analytics. It should be viewed as more than just MI reporting, says Maheshwary. 

“We want to bridge the gap between business and analytics. We want there to be a more valuable engagement with their analytics team. We recently conducted a champions training programme for our Utilities operation leaders to ensure that they appreciate the potential of analytics in improving operations. This intervention helped in ensuring that operation leaders view analytics as a way of working, trust the results of analytics, are open to being surprised by findings and discover new ways of seeing their business.”

EXL’s approach to embedding analytics – Insights 2.0

EXL embeds analytics into day-to-day operations by leveraging its proprietary Insights 2.0 framework. This framework creates a customized roadmap for operations to embed analytics at work intake, processing and output stage to improve customer and business outcomes.

Maheshwary explains: “While we continue to work on need-based analytics interventions – driven by critical business requirements or client needs, we truly wanted to embed analytics into our client’s business processes by synergizing analytics expertise with rich domain knowledge. We wanted to shift from delivering an ad-hoc insight to continuous flow of insights that help operations team to maximize customer and business outcomes. This led to conceptualization of Insights 2.0” Through Insights 2.0 approach, EXL is able to improve customer and business outcomes by using descriptive, prescriptive, and predictive analytics methods across each stage of operations from work intake to processing and output. Maheshwary adds: “By leveraging this framework, we have been able to improve customer experience, reduce cost to serve, reduce re-work, and improve first pass yield.”

EXL implemented Insights 2.0 framework for a large energy and home services provider and within 8 months of implementation delivered a business value ~£3MM. This framework also helped EXL in delivering positive customer experience to additional 100K customers over the period of eight months.

Speak the same analytics language

Maheshwary advises that businesses should invest in the right people with the right skill set. “If you do this, you will see substantial results. Identify right people with domain expertise and train them on analytics to deliver a better business value. Get everyone to speak similar language to create more business value“