Jeb Stone (the smartest guy I know) makes some great points in his most recent post - Centralized vs Decentralized Analytics: All You Need To Know. I'm a firm believer in the value of analytics. But I never really thought about whether the function should be centralized or not. Who wouldn't want to have their own dedicated analyst? But Jeb makes a great point about how this is a bad arrangement from a career progression perspective and the resulting impact that has on the analyst's tenure. He writes:
From an organizational cost perspective, here’s perhaps the biggest argument against a decentralized Analytics organization: In a decentralized organization, there is no tangible career path for most analysts...
...Without a career path, your analysts are highly incented to learn in-demand technology on your dime — whether or not your organization has a need for it — and then jump ship to an employer who will compensate them for that skill. Perhaps even more to the point: rock-star analysts will avoid employers with a decentralized Analytics function, because they know it’ll take them longer to come up to speed and that there is likely no performance incentive program specific to their accomplishments.
...After my second year in my first “big” job, I remember thinking: “Man, I didn’t know anything a year ago.” At the end of my fourth year, I remember thinking: “It really takes two years to get an analyst up to full competence.” I’ve frequently seen an argument that decentralized analysts have a deeper knowledge of their specific line of business. I can’t give a lot of credence to that argument, specifically because line-of-business analysts are likely to leave the job around the time they become fully competent, leaving the line of business to backfill with a novice.
I've seen this exact thing happen multiple times. All the decentralized analytics guys I've worked with have left in under 2 years. The guys in the centralized analytics group (at the same company no less) are all still there, still learning new skills, and still adding increasing value to the business.
As a business development and product management guy, I can attest that having access to analytics guys that really understand the business is a huge asset and makes it much easier for me to create successful partnerships and products.
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