If you’ve ever participated in a data analytics implementation, you may be familiar with the indescribable excitement around the project. Who wouldn’t be eager for a solution that makes it easier and more efficient to understand and serve your customers?

But what happens after excitement of your initial implementation fades, the consultants have gone home, and your dashboards have lost their shiny, new appeal? How can you ensure a return on your investment?

Recently, Galina Kozachenko (Association for Financial Professionals) and Debbie King (Association Analytics) discussed the afterglow of data analytics as part of the weekly Association Chat series hosted by Kiki L’Italien. You can replay the recording here. Here are my top 5 takeaways for how to succeed with data analytics:

1. Align Analytics with Association Strategy

What gets measured, gets done. “Analytics and strategy need to live side by side,” said Galina. It’s important that for every strategy, you have a hypothesis that’s tested by measuring and tracking defined metrics.

2. Manage Your Scope

Don’t start too big. “We have seen the greatest success when an association starts out by analyzing one area at a time,” said Debbie King. Prioritize your business areas and ensure successful implementation of one area before moving on to others.

3. Establish and Enforce Data Governance

Data governance is elusive, but attainable if you treat data as an enterprise asset that is the responsibility of everyone. Galina recommended evaluating your data early in any analytics engagement to better understand what elements will need to be kept clean in the future. Read more about data governance.

4. Identify a Data Champion

One of the most important factors in successful adoption of a data strategy is having one (or more) data champions. These internal staff members are able — through influence, education, or example — to advance the cause of data throughout the organization.

5. Be Prepared to Manage Change

Data analytics is an exercise in change management and that change won’t happen overnight. “It’s not a one week journey,” said Galina, “but once the traction picks up, it will be like a self-propelling train.”

To help ensure adoption, you need the support and buy-in of leadership and staff. Communication throughout the project is key. Be prepared to continuously demonstrate value through “quick wins” and sharing success stories. Your data champion or analysts also will need to commit to spending time training, providing analysis, and working with both the early adopters and the risk-averse.

Debbie recommends publicizing and promoting internal data analytics work in much the same way you would promote an external benefit to members. Pick an area and provide a weekly summary to leadership about the meaning of “story in the data”. Encourage the analytical mindset by having a “Question of the week”. Look for and show examples of surprises in the data that defy intuition. Increase visibility and stimulate interest by placing a monitor in the kitchen or lobby that shows high level visualizations that rotate each day.

failure-quoteGiving Up is the Only Sure Way to Fail

Ultimately, though, success isn’t even possible if you don’t try. “The only time you can really call an analytics initiative a failure is if you give up,” said Debbie. “It’s an iterative process and the most important thing is to get started where you are.”