Getting Real About Virtual Centers of Excellence

Forward-looking companies increasingly are moving away from centralized, exclusive enclaves devoted to analytics to embrace more open, collaborative virtual centers of excellence. It makes a great deal of sense. By decentralizing analytics throughout different parts of the organization, you can empower subject matter experts all over the company to make better, faster and more informed business decisions.

A group of people work together in a coffee shop with their Dell laptop

Add in simple, cloud-enabled tools with GUI interfaces, and it’s easier to perform full-volume data analytics on multiple data sets, which makes it possible to create multi-faceted views of business problems. Sure, some analytics traditionalists might dismiss this as “New Age Analytics” because it doesn’t focus solely on an elitist group of data scientists and programmers performing highly sophisticated, sample-based analytics.

While there will be a place for the traditional approach, I have seen firsthand what happens when more people join the party. I’ve also seen the types of results that come from using agile tools to manipulate all data from all sources to get a clearer picture of the problem you’re trying to dissect and analyze.

That was the approach taken by Danske Bank, which relied on Dell’s advanced analytics platform to cut in half the time it took to develop critical analytical models. In doing so, the bank boosted customer service by streamlining its loan application process with a fast, accurate and effective way to determine credit worthiness. Most important, Danske Bank can continue to improve customer service by challenging and updating their models as business needs dictate.

"In today's market, customers need the bank around the clock. They actually have the opportunity to interact with the bank around the clock," said Kim Madsen, head of model framework at Danske Bank. "You need predictive analytics to be able to give fast decisions back to a customer."

The new breed of analytics tools are liberating because more people can use them. That’s why companies are moving away from dedicated pockets of data experts in favor of virtual centers of excellence where employees are taught how to do the work themselves.

For example, we’ve been working with a major manufacturer with lots of logistics experts who are using these tools to gain greater visibility into their global supply chain. While the virtual center of excellence offers direction on how best to use the tools, it’s up to the logistics experts to do the actual work. This progressive organization is breaking down barriers and applying analytics where it matters most.

At Dell, we practice what we preach, so we recently moved away from several traditional apps to deploy a people-powered big data analytics solution. The goal of Dell’s next-gen big data analytics deployment was simple: Make it easier for marketers to understand new customer trends and initiate more personalized marketing programs.

To accomplish this, we needed a way for business users to assimilate numerous analytics tools and data sources as well as pinpoint patterns and make recommendations. We took advantage of Dell Toad data management and Dell Statistica to simplify the task of building analytics models and sorting through disparate data to reveal a more accurate picture of our customers’ shopping behaviors.

Once we did this, we could quickly identify emerging trends in customer engagements, leading to the development of new multichannel marketing programs. Although we’re still in the rollout phase, Dell already has realized $5.3 million in incremental revenue by initiating more personalized marketing programs and uncovering new opportunities. Moreover, our ability to create a virtual center of marketing excellence puts Dell on the path to greater agility and effectiveness in meeting ever-evolving customer needs.

And, it surely helps that we’ve managed to save more than $2.5 million in operational and vendor outsourcing costs along the way. This is a great example of what can happen when you create a virtual center of excellence to facilitate company-wide data sharing and collaboration.

I expect to share more stories like this in the near future, especially as companies turn to R and other platforms to more easily identify and manipulate all kinds of data. As virtual centers of excellence become reality for more companies, there will be endless opportunities to highlight best practices and showcase business transformations.

Do you envision a virtual center of excellence for your company? Connect with me on Twitter at @johnkthompson60 to share what it looks like to you.

About the Author: John K. Thompson