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Merck

A centralized analytics practice puts together a portfolio of projects that uncovers $720 million in value

Global pharmaceutical company Merck works to cultivate an insight-driven culture. But it used to have pockets of analytics groups across the organization and was challenged to bring those teams together to join in a cohesive approach to data-driven decision-making, whether the goal was developing new products or running the business more efficiently.

In May 2014, Merck made the move and launched a centralized analytics practice. Since then, the combined power of its data and analytics resources has helped uncover more than $720 million in value. Merck began by setting up eight work streams spanning portfolio management, data, technology, talent management, operating model, change management, knowledge management, and marketing and communications.

Leaders and domain experts across the company then helped establish a portfolio of analytics projects. Each initiative is evaluated based on the team's confidence that the problem can be solved with analytics and the value a successful outcome is expected to deliver. Once a project is underway, it continues to be evaluated based on the team's confidence that they will succeed.

The biggest challenge was driving the culture change, says Hima Patel, vice president of enterprise integration and customer collaboration. Within the IT organization, decentralized analytics groups were pulled together into a single organization. "That had its own dynamics to overcome," she recalls.

Another challenge was demonstrating the value of analytics. "We partnered with finance to bring credibility to the numbers that we are publishing and to produce an almost ‘Endorsed by Finance' seal. That's where we spent the bulk of our time the first year," Patel says.

As the team continues to drive value, Bill Stolte, executive director, business performance analytics, advises companies embracing analytics to always follow the data. "Sometimes this data is counter to historical beliefs," Stolte says. "But it should trump internal biases. It's a big part of the cultural change."

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