Actionable Insights From APT's Retail Practice

Q&A with Fopefolu Agbedia, Vice President in Client Services at APT

September 1st, 2017 | Posted by APT in Analytics

At APT, we work with client organizations across twelve industries to help them enhance their analytics programs and make data-driven decisions. This Q&A will be the first in a series spotlighting leaders across the firm, sharing their insights on analytical challenges and best practices.

The following interview has been edited for length.

Q: What is your professional background, and what is your role at APT?

I joined APT in June 2016. I have over six years of experience as a management consultant, advising pharmaceutical and medical companies across North America and Africa. Previously, I earned a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

As a vice president in Client Services, I work on a variety of client teams, and my role involves leveraging analytical expertise to help clients inform their decision-making.

Q: Which industries do you work in?

My main area of focus is Life Sciences. I work with pharmaceutical companies and hospital systems. In addition to Life Sciences, I work with retail clients – including jewelry and convenience retailers – as well as subscription business clients.

Q: In your work with clients, what are some of the most common challenges organizations encounter in institutionalizing a robust analytics program?

I have noticed two big challenges that organizations face as they standardize testing processes.

The first is ensuring that analytics efforts are tied to business objectives. Whether the objective is to become more customer-focused, or more omnichannel, or something completely different, companies need an analytic capability that can effectively and holistically evaluate their strategic initiatives. Information that is not aligned with the business goals, even if it is good or interesting, will not ultimately drive results.

The second challenge is “speed to answers.” Even organizations that already have analytic processes in place can arrive at insights too late to inform decisions. When the decision has already been made, the results are no longer actionable – their function is then diminished simply to reporting.

Having the ability to test new ideas quickly and change course as needed adds significant value when it comes to innovation – and that is a capability that APT offers our clients.

Q: Based on your experience, what are some analytic best practices that organizations should keep in mind?

The key to truly informing and changing decisions based on analytics is moving from simply reporting patterns or findings to proactively leveraging data to solve problems. The first part is predicting what would happen, and the second is devising an actionable plan that teams can adjust as needed.

Analytics can become a back room practice used to create a bunch of charts with data, but the next steps are not immediately clear. In other words, it can be perceived as nice to have, but not truly impactful.

In contrast, teams should focus on providing actionable answers and quickly course-correcting with data-driven recommendations. That is how analytics can provide a competitive edge. It is critical to move from providing support and taking a reactionary approach to analytics to instead becoming more proactive and developing actionable recommendations.

Q: From your perspective, what is unique about APT and its software?

Our clients are able to use and take ownership of the software – it’s really theirs. It’s not just APT’s “black box” of analytics; they are able to clearly see what data is coming through and follow the logic of the analyses. This empowers organizations to truly institutionalize a culture of testing, adopting our Test & Learn approach as an internal capability.

In addition, there are a lot of data and analytics tools out there that help derive patterns and generate hypotheses. At APT, we go beyond this to figure out which elements of a program are most effective, and provide a prescriptive answer for how to make it better. We help move from the hypothesis, to a test, to an action. All of this helps to quickly optimize programs, which is so important.

Q: What advice would you give to an organization that is interested in building out its analytics program, but is unsure of where to begin?

Everyone keeps talking about big data – there is so much hype around it, and no organization wants to miss out. Organizations are trying to figure out how they should invest in analytic programs. However, if the analytics program is just producing a ton of information without a clear sense of direction, it is not helpful. For data to truly drive value, the analytics need to be prescriptive and actionable.

My advice to organizations interested in enhancing their analytic capabilities is to think about exactly what they need – what insights they are trying to unlock, and what decisions they are trying to make – then work backward from there.

They need to input the right data to arrive at the right insights, which will provide answers to their questions. They need to know what to do with that information in order to affect change. That’s why it is imperative for organizations focus their analytical approach on their business objectives, instead of boiling the ocean and generating outputs that do not add value to the broader business strategy.

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