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Analytics Leaders Must Ask the Right Questions: UNICEF’s Ioannis Gedeon

UNICEF Head of Insights Ioannis Gedeon reflects on how he’ll apply lessons from his 16-year career in digital analytics to his new role at the charity

Digital analytics has evolved dramatically over the past 16 years. When Ioannis Gedeon, Head of Insights at children’s charity UNICEF, started his career in 2001, consumer behavior analysis was a nascent field primarily used to inform marketing campaigns.

“Digital channels back then, like email [or] websites, were part of direct marketing,” he recalls. “A website was seen as a leaflet or an email was seen as a mail, and people would go and buy databases and try to email people.”

In this week’s episode of the Business of Data podcast, Gedeon reflects on spending a decade and a half in customer insights and how he’ll apply the key lessons he’s learned to his new role at UNICEF.

Analytics Leaders Must Understand Their Businesses

If he could travel to the past, Gedeon says the first piece of advice he would give to his past self is to spend more time getting to grips with the nuances and complexities of an organization when starting a new role.

He argues that new data or analytics leaders may run into avoidable obstacles if they aren’t aware of the factors that informed past business decisions and guided a company’s historic priorities.

“It’s not that people don’t want to be data-driven or people don’t want to be digital,” he says. “Maybe there is a reason that you can’t understand. Maybe there is a regulatory issue.”

“So, taking the time to listen, reflect, ask the right questions before executing,” he continues. “I think that’s very important.”

In addition to asking the right questions of company stakeholders when developing a new analytics strategy, Gedeon says the second thing he’s learned over the years is the importance of speaking the language of those stakeholders when communicating his vision for the future.

“If I was going back in time,” he says. “I would adapt my language better to the business when I communicate findings or methodologies I’m using.”

Bringing Stakeholders Along on the Data Journey

Of course, developing a strategy to help an organization become more data-driven is just the first step in the digital transformation process. Analytics-focused executives must also secure buy-in for their strategies.

According to Gedeon, the key here is to involve company stakeholders in the development of new tools and processes. To illustrate this idea, he shares a story about establishing measurement frameworks around messaging and personalization in one of his past roles.

“Making them part of the measurement framework creation process helped a lot in getting them using those KPIs and primary methods and secondary methods in their day-to-day operations,” he recalls. “It was a very big part of making the organization data-informed.”

He says the key to success was mapping out the business questions the framework would address and then creating KPIs with an explanation, an expectation and an action attached to them. This ensured staff would always know what actions to take in a given situation.

As he embarks on his new role at UNICEF, Gedeon concludes that these learnings will play a key role in helping him to overcome key challenge and advance the charity’s analytics strategy.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand your organization. Spend time consulting with key stakeholders to understand your organization’s history, industry vertical and business priorities
  • Communicate with business stakeholders in their language. Avoid technical language and spell out your analytics vision so that company stakeholders grasp how it will benefit them
  • Involve key stakeholders in strategy development. Work with analytics end-users to develop new KPIs and processes to secure buy-in for making these changes