March 17, 2021

Structuring insights centers of excellence: 5 executives weigh in

Market Logic Team

Market Logic works with insights organizations throughout the world who deliver insights to support decisions across a variety of corporate structures – decentralized, federated, highly centralized, and everything in between. An executive panel on scalability and business impact through insights centers of excellence provided a fabulous opportunity to explore these dynamics, with Forrester Principal Analyst Cinny Little and insights executives at American Express, Colgate-Palmolive, EON, Home Depot and Mondelez. In the discussion, we learned that each organization’s Center of Excellence (CoE) supports scale and business impact, to power adaptive enterprises.

At Colgate, the insights organization is very federated, with decision-makers in 200 countries and a CoE focusing on “people on the ground,” said Richard Thorogood, VP, Global Head of CMI. Colgate has 120 insights people in over 30 countries, working within operational groups. The global team of less than 10 is necessarily lean, agile and collaborative, with all efforts concentrated on alignment across the in-market insights teams.

“Everyone thinks they have the perfect solution,” says Richard, “the challenge is finding common ground without going down to the lowest common denominator.” Sharing learning and driving impact across the federated model has been critical – a task that is aided with people on the ground who drive a core agenda. That prevents, according to Richard, the “pseudo ivory tower operation that’s very disconnected.” Instead, Colgate’s Insights CoE provides the seed for experimentation, with funding and heavy lifting for experimental new approaches.

By contrast, at Home Depot, the CoE is highly centralized. Brendan Baby, Head of CX, Strategy, & Analytics, shared that one of the main priorities for organizational structure at Home Depot is cost reduction, so savings can be passed on to the customer. The CoE works hard to “deliver meaningful and useful insights to drive business outcomes from a centralized platform.”

That means, for example, the merchandizing organization understands directly what decisions to make. Brendan says “they won’t do any work that doesn’t lead to a change in the recipient’s mind.” This ensures a direct connection between action and output.

The CoE at American Express serves 3,500 marketeers, where the challenge is to scale insights as a capability, not a project delivery team. Their goal for the past 3 years, said Phillip Chambers, VP and Global Head of Insights, has been to think about “one marketeer at a time – the decisions they’re making, and the insights they need.”

With customers all over the world, and an insights team based in New York and London, “that’s where technology comes in,” said Philip, “and where our data platform really makes a difference. Just like you wouldn’t expect a financial broker to work without a Bloomberg terminal, we think it’s inconceivable for a marketeer to work without our Market Logic Insights Hub”.

Paola Vacchini, Director, Consumer Insights & Analytics Europe said that the Mondelez CoE uses a hybrid model. Their main question is always: how can we improve our impact from a business perspective? They work to enable the creation of capabilities at scale, as well as the standardization of approaches. At the same time, their structure is “close to the market… because that’s where we can drive business proximity for the most impact.” Paola says the Mondelez CoE helps create skills and further develop and retain talent across the organization.

It was inspiring to hear first hand how these five insights executives are leading their organizations towards true business impact, with CoE structures that drive better, high quality decisions from data and insights.