3 Qualities Every Analytics Team Should Have, According to GSN Games

FEBRUARY 9, 2016 • Blog Post • By HPE Business Insights

IN THIS ARTICLE

  • As Big Data becomes a key part of any business strategy, companies are figuring out how to build best-of-breed analytics teams
  • Stephane Jarbouai, executive director at GSN Games, shares the top three qualities every analytics team should have

When it comes to fine-tuning a mature analytics practice, people skills matter more than you might think

Big Data analytics has quickly become a must-have business strategy for all organizations. In many industries, a company without a Big Data analytics team is the exception—and is likely losing ground to its competitors by the day. 

But for those who are already on the road to maturity in Big Data analytics, competition is still a cause for concern. Increasingly, the how of building a Big Data analytics team is as important as the why

“There’s not a single video game company I can think of that doesn’t have an analytics team,” says Stephane Jarbouai, executive director, analytics, at GSN Games. As a leader in data-driven decision making, GSN Games (part of the Game Show Network) is ahead of the curve in its analytics practice maturity, and has learned firsthand that soft skills can accelerate success.  

“The key differentiator is around the implementation of analytics,” says Jarbouai. “The secret sauce is the know-how and capabilities of your people and of your systems. That’s what makes the difference between an okay analytics team and a great analytics team.”

3 qualities to count on

Jarbouai doesn’t dismiss the importance of technical skills, such as proficiency in SQL as well as R, Python or C++. “It’s a basic requirement—the bread and butter,” he says. “We don’t even talk about it.” 

The hiring strategy focuses on finding people with the right operational mindset who embrace the principles of rapid failure and iteration—getting the best ideas to market with the least fanfare and self-interest. Jarbouai says there are three personal characteristics that mark an ideal candidate:

  1. Having a problem-solving mentality.“The name of the game is asking the right questions,” says Jarbouai, “not ‘Hey, I can get the answer if you feed me the question.’” The candidates that move to the front of the pack are able to demonstrate the ability to ask the right questions so they can get to the root of an issue quickly. These include questions that eliminate extraneous or erroneous data points and help business stakeholders focus on key performance indicators.

  2. Choosing simplicity over complexity. Most analytics people are nerds at heart, notes Jarbouai. “We love technical challenges and doing things that have never been done before,” he says. These qualities often make people great technologists, but can sometimes cloud priorities and get in the way of expediency.

    “The simplest approach that’s going to give you the correct answer is the best one,” says Jarbouai. That means people need to be able to suppress the urge to geek out on an intellectually intriguing challenge, or pass up the opportunity to use a new technology. In short, being satisfied with the simplest approach to a problem is a key differentiator.

  3. Being comfortable with being wrong. Sometimes, data leads you in unexpected directions. This lies in stark contrast to an older business tradition, wherein the difference between success and failure hinged on the quality of someone’s hunch. 

    “We always follow the data,” says Jarbouai. “We don’t manage around people’s egos, because people here are fine with being wrong.”

    Notably, this applies to everyone up the corporate ladder. The data-driven approach has to be a core value in the analytics team, but it’s even more important for executives to step back and let the data speak for itself.

    That’s not to say that people always agree on what to do. “We argue about what might be best for the product, and there are always a variety of opinions,” says Jarbouai. “But we always answer those questions with data.”

The power of knowledge sharing

The day is coming when being data driven will be a business norm. In the meantime, organizations that are using data to disrupt their markets are quickly creating new best practices. The smart ones, like GSN Games, are working together to compare notes and, ultimately, operationalize the strategies that stand tall among the rest. 

“I maintain a network of contacts with other analytics departments in industries where we don’t compete,” says Jarbouai. “We definitely try to learn as much as we can, wherever we can. It would be stupid not to.”


GSN Games partners with HPE Vertica to unlock the full value of data. For more information, CLICK HERE.

Whether you’re building a team or a long-term strategy plan, trusting data is in the DNA of today’s business leaders. Read the HPE Business Insights article “Taking ‘data driven’ to the next level” for more on how analytics contributes to GSN Games’ competitive advantage.

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