To maximize the results of their data analytics initiatives, healthcare brands must make a concerted effort to build an organizational culture optimized for the digital age.

The state of big data analytics in 2015 — a state that, for the most part, still prevails today — was summed up by two figures equal in magnitude but opposite in meaning. According to Forbes Insights, 60 percent of executives “expect[ed] to increase their spending on data-driven analytics over the [following] three years.” But according to Gartner, “60 percent of big data projects were predicted to fail to go beyond piloting and experimentation in the following two.

This paradoxical outlook reveals an important truth for organizations looking to drive change using data analytics: it’s not enough for executives and corporate stakeholders to offer a given analytics project the green light. In order to facilitate meaningful, sustainable implementation, companies must create the conditions for data-driven approaches to thrive — a culture of “analytics enablement,” so to speak.

For leadership teams working in an industry as complex as healthcare, executing such a cultural shift is particularly difficult. If done well, however, the results are well worth the effort.

Desiloing Operations in the Face of Complexity

Generally speaking, the best marketing analytics programs should help brands measure past performance (descriptive analytics), predict future outcomes (predictive analytics), and optimize business decisions with respect to predicted outcomes (prescriptive analytics). What’s more, this three-pronged analytical approach shouldn’t exist in isolation; it must be integrated into a brand’s core business processes.

Doing so requires breaking down deeply-entrenched organizational silos. And while siloing is a persistent problem in many marketing departments — and broader corporate infrastructures — it’s particularly common in healthcare. Often, different brands that fall under the same organizational umbrella will devote resources toward overlapping customer segments — not only allocating budget to compete against their own company, but exhausting HCPs with excessive outreach. What’s more, additional silos often develop within those distinct brand silos when vendors, agency partners, and internal stakeholders aren’t each equipped with the data they need to reveal resource-intensive redundancies.

What’s needed is a single, centralized team whose task it is to leverage data that can reveal and solve for these inefficiencies — and make those insights widely available to stakeholders across an entire organization.  

The Foundation of an Analytics-Enabling Culture

Ultimately, desiloed cross-organizational decision-making is the cornerstone of a culture of analytics enablement. This can be facilitated in several different ways.

First, healthcare brands must recognize that the ongoing diversification of data sources and analytics techniques demands a parallel diversification of their analytics staff. No matter how skilled or experienced, no single analyst can solve every type of problem modern healthcare brands encounter. Brands should strive to build a complementary team of data strategists, data engineers, data scientists, digital analysts, and data visualization experts. Creating space for such differently skilled experts to interact and cooperate is critical to the success of any healthcare marketing analytics program.

Championing and Preserving the Human Element: Creativity

Even as data-driven approaches begin to take root throughout an organization, it’s essential that marketers — healthcare and otherwise — use them to enable, not supercede, the central pillar of great marketing: storytelling. As advertising executive John Hegarty puts it in Financial Times, “What [data] cannot do is create an emotional bond with the consumer. Data does not make magic. That is the job of persuasion. And it is what makes brands valuable.”

In short, while a robust data-driven operation is critical in today’s healthcare marketing environment, it must not come at the expense of human creativity. Statistics and storytelling can — and should — go hand-in-hand, and a culture of analytics enablement is a culture in which creatives and analysts work together to inform each others’ choices in a dynamic way.

Ultimately, organizations that make a concerted effort to craft a corporate culture that prioritizes, facilitates, and sustains data-driven approaches will be positioned to dominate their market niche moving forward. As more healthcare brands recognize the importance of data analytics, winners and losers will ultimately be determined by which brands have built the support structures an analytics program needs to flourish.

Written by Kevin Troyanos

I lead the Analytics & Data Science practice at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness. I have focused my career within the healthcare marketing analytics space, empowering healthcare marketers with data-driven strategic guidance while developing innovative solutions to healthcare marketing problems through the power of data science. I’ve worked to measure, predict, and optimize marketing and business outcomes across personal, non-personal, digital, and social channels. I’ve led engagements with brands that span all stages of the product lifecycle, with a particular focus on established brands. My role is to guide the departmental vision and lead innovation initiatives, effectively positioning marketing analytics as a competitive differentiator and organic growth driver for the agency at large.

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