specific goals
January 2, 2018

Setting yourself specific goals, as an Insight Leader, for 2021

By Paul Laughlin

Happy New Year, it’s time to decide what your annual specific goals will be, even this year.

For the last couple of years, I’ve shared a post recommending a system for setting goals & achieving them. However, a few conversations with insight leaders have reminded me that advice remains generic. What about which goals to set?

As this blog aims to support Customer Insight Leaders, I want to also offer more specific advice.

Given the context of common challenges & potential future trends, which goals would I advise? Well, far be it from me to second guess your priorities & specific context, but I hope these thoughts help. They are intended to simply act as a checklist; to prompt your own thinking.

Topics for your specific goals, for 2021

Business priorities

My first encouragement is to be guided by your context. Do not start with fashionable technology trends, or the most passionate speaker at that conference. What does your business need? What do your customers want?

Start by taking some time out to consider the most important challenges for your business. Here are a few potential issues to seed your review:

Identifying the highest business priority, that customer insight can guide, is a great place to start. As I advised when sharing experience of how to influence ‘top table’ executive committees, start with their need. Even if other improvements are possible & more interesting, start with how analytics and/or research can help wider business.

That will build the firmest foundation for ongoing influence during the year.

Having said that, many of today’s insight leaders are tasked with building a capability. Whether it be improved data usage, analytics or data science. I often meet existing customer insight leaders tasked with proving potential value. So, which goals make sense for them?

Capability Building goals for 2021

Data Management capability

Firstly, because almost no business has yet achieved full compliance, I must stress the importance of GDPR compliance.

To help identify which specific goals you need to set regarding GDPR, a review of these previous posts should help identify gaps:

For now, I would suggest that goals, with regards to using more Big Data (unless it is to improve your data quality), are postponed. Until you clearly understand how you will achieve compliance with GDPR & can evidence a plan, that should be your data priority. Not least because, once you fully understand your responsibilities, less may be more, for data usage in 2019.

Data Science capability

The single most popular capability, that I discover today’s leaders are piloting, is Data Science (inc. AI). That makes sense, as even the more advanced leaders I hear, are still exploring potential applications.

Some new products & services have been innovated. Existing processes have been refined and automated. But, the business case for most organisation is still far from proven.

My personal view is that is most companies do not yet need Data Scientists, rather better Analytics would add more value. However, as coding languages become simpler & the most popular algorithms prove their relevance, that may change.

So, even if you are not a tech disruptor, if you can secure sufficient budget, now is a good time to experiment. I would simply caution to set a goal regarding proving business applications & ROI, at low-cost & low risk for now.

Here are some posts to help guide where you might focus a goal to pilot a Data Science capability in your business:

Analytics capability

For many businesses, the capability with greatest potential to change how they operate is analytics. Unfortunately the phrase has too often been misunderstood & either watered down or hijacked.

By watered down, I mean conflating MI or BI with analytics. Because of the widespread vague use of the term, I come across many businesses who believe they have an analytics team. Upon closer inspection, I find this team are only skilled in producing MI or BI reporting.

If educating your business on the difference between analytics and BI is one of your challenges, consider presenting as continuum. I’ve used a number of infographics, over the years, to show a maturity journey from simple data reporting through to data science. This can help show difference compared to descriptive, predictive or prescriptive analytics. Do you need to set a goal to expand your analytics capability toolkit?

I mentioned the term analytics has also been hijacked. Here I am referring to the popularity of Data Science. With so much hyperbole surrounding that term, it is all too often allowed to subsume all analytics. I’ve met a number of leaders who assume any statistical modelling is now part of a Data Science capability.

For one goal, I’d suggest identifying where your analytics capability can most rapidly prove ROI. These posts may help guide your goal setting:

People capability

When I reflect on which analytics work has provided biggest ‘bang for buck‘ in the organisations where I’ve worked, a key is people. Often the biggest predictor of impact is not the sophistication, nor even the relevance of analytics work, but the analyst.

It is all too often that I find analysts lack any training beyond technical skills. It is as if they are simply to be programmed with coding/software/stats skills & left to get on with it. When I see what a difference strong softer skills can make to individual analysts & teams, this is such a missed opportunity.

So, I encourage you, for this new year, consider the people skills that you should target with relevant goals.

For developing individual analysts, I suggest considering:

For designing and developing better teams, I suggest:

Leadership capability

Last, but definitely not least, don’t neglect yourself as a leader. Rather than letting as personal development plan be a burden or after thought, how about seeing it as a chance to invest in you?

I’ve written previously about the need for improved leadership capability amongst insight leaders. More organisations are waking up to this development need.

Two regular conversations remind me of the continued importance of setting goals in this area. Firstly, the leaders I meet (and sometimes coach) who have technical expertise but lack experience of operating at new senior level. Secondly, busy insight leaders who tell me they cannot spare the time for coaching or mentoring or CPD, despite obvious challenges.

If you recognise that you’d benefit from more investment in your leadership development this year, here are some ideas. These posts on leadership development should prompt your thinking, to craft a goal that is right for you:

What will your specific goals be for 2021?

Did you find those suggestions useful, even in these challenging times? Which were relevant to the goals you need to set in 2021? What specific goals are your top priorities for this year, as we look toward a restart?

It can help you & others to share your perspective and help raise awareness across our leadership community. Why not have a Zoom call to share with your peers what goals make sense in your context?