Why are we here? No not the answer to life, the universe and everything, which is obviously 42, but we the analysts. We the insights people. Why are we here and what are we good for?
Or put another way, what's the best way to make use of your insights department?
Conversation over a beer last night (yes on a Monday, things are going that well...) turned to what analysts should do when faced with the question 'I need your help to prove x?' It's not even really a question and I'm firmly of the opinion that if you find yourself asking or trying to answer it, things have already gone wrong. It happens far too often.
Let's go with the Hitchhikers Guide reference for a little longer. If you haven't read the book don't worry, but honestly what are you doing here? This is the realm of Data Monkeys and we've all read it. Many more than once. For any poor, lost, normal, well adjusted people who've found themselves on Wallpapering Fog it turns out the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42.
Helpful, right? And that's the joke. 42 is only useful if you understand the question.
If you regard your analysts as a rubber stamp to provide evidence for whatever strategy is flavour of the month at the moment - if you don't get their help in shaping the question, then you're in trouble. Partly because you'll have a team of pissed off, depressed analysts and more importantly because you're missing out on a huge opportunity.
Get the analysts in early. Get them in on the strategy discussions. Yes they might roll their eyes when you say 'brand value' but you roll yours when we say 'not statistically significant' so we're even.
There's no reason why having insights people on board early should make an idea less creative, but they'll be able to point out which bits of your success criteria are going to be measurable (or suggest new ones,) they'll be able to provide some useful evidence through the discussion and they just might stop you making a fool of yourself later, in front of the client, when it comes to measuring results.
That isn't the most powerful way to use analysts though. We're still taking about insight as a service - just a way to back up what the agency is already doing. Here's a radical thought... a lot of analysts (not all, admittedly) are excellent strategists, with good ideas, who just happen to be good at maths. They're people who are useful to have on board. Sometimes they come up with ideas that aren't measurable and still think they're worth trying. Make the most of it and get the analysis team in early! You'll end with stronger ideas, where you know which bits you can prove and where the client is going to have to trust you, and you won't have an insights team who - when you tell them at the end what you need to prove - look blank, worried or angry and say 'I can't'.