ZS Associates is the world’s largest firm focused exclusively on improving business performance through sales and marketing solutions, from customer insights and strategy to analytics, operations and technology. More than 4,000 ZS professionals in 21 offices worldwide draw on deep industry and domain expertise to deliver impact where it matters for clients across multiple industries. To learn more, visit www.zsassociates.com or follow us on Twitter (@ZSAssociates) and LinkedIn.
8 Questions with ZS Associates
1. Can you tell us a little bit about ZS Associates and your activity in the analytics field to date?
ZS is the world’s largest firm focused exclusively on improving business performance through sales and marketing solutions, from analytics to strategy, operations and technology. Leveraging analytics to make data-driven decisions are at the core of ZS engagements, and have been for over 30 years. Consider the sales force which is a very expensive investment for most organizations. By intelligently putting analytics to work, ZS helps organizations improve decisions for all sales force members – including salespeople, sales managers and sales leaders – and get dramatically better returns on their sales force investments. In 2014, we published “The Power of Sales Analytics,” which was co-written by more than 20 of our sales analytics experts. The book highlights decades of ZS’s strategic insights and decision frameworks that have helped companies use analytics to refine their sales strategies and operations and achieve better results.
2. In your opinion, what are the key challenges Chief Analytics Officers (CAOs) across the enterprise currently face?
At the outset, CAOs seem to be facing challenges of data, technology, and business priorities. With ever-growing amounts of data—structured and unstructured —evaluating its usefulness is always difficult without any previous real-world business problems that could be solved with this variety of data. When it comes to technology, there is a clutter of new tools and technology for data management, statistical and machine-learning analysis, and visualization, leaving people wondering what to use, when and how. But, we strongly believe, the challenges faced by CAOs go beyond just the crust. At the core of it, we believe that having a clear vision for analytics and ensuring the talent availability are two biggest challenges for CAOs. Business transformations through analytics are led by clear vision and well defined business priorities. Talent, both for the creation of analytics applications and in business usage, is central in realizing the vision. Organizations that don’t understand or embrace these core challenges are spending time, money and energy innovating products/solutions that don’t offer long-term benefits.
3. Are you seeing some specific trends or behaviors developing as a result?
Commercial functions are laying stronger focus on developing a strategic vision putting data analytics at the heart of next wave of innovation and transformation. They are moving from having a slew of disparate analytics projects across the sales and marketing function to building the long term analytics capability for the commercial organization. These organizations are looking both internally and externally for product and/or service-led solutions to cater to these changing business needs. We believe that ZS, with rich sales and marketing expertise, is well-positioned to play a leadership role in this scenario. We help to accelerate the commercial excellence by developing strategic vision around role of data analytics, providing the talent to drive the innovation and scalable execution and playing advisory role all along the execution.
4. ZS has been offering sales transformation consulting services to clients across many industry verticals for the past 30 years. What is driving you to offer analytics services to these clients now?
ZS has three core lines of business: consulting, technology and operations. While some ZS offerings fall within only one of these categories, other offerings cut across all three. Analytics is one such practice, which cuts across consulting, technology and operations. Even before the word “analytics” became popular, ZS was offering analytics services to many of its Fortune 500 clients.
Clients from different industry verticals have benefited from ZS’s analytics offerings, but the pharmaceutical industry has gained the most. ZS began providing services to the pharmaceutical industry 30 years ago by addressing the sales-force-sizing problem and today, ZS has really grown big in pharmaceutical and this rich experience has allowed us to grow in several other industry verticals by offering dedicated thought leadership and scalable execution through world class home grown talent.
5. There are many analytics service providers in the marketplace. What is unique about ZS and its offerings?
With the explosion of data and technology, there is an increasing effort to generate data-driven decisions, which in turn are feeding increased demand for analytics resources across the board. From system integrators to data providers to BPO/KPOs to strategic consulting firms, everyone is offering analytics services in today’s business world.
ZS exclusively offers sales and marketing solutions for business performance. Such focus allows all of ZS's more than 4,000 employees to become deep subject matter experts in different practice areas within sales and marketing. ZS has the real value proposition, which few other vendors have, of the ability to bring in the right tools and processes to enable better data-driven decision making. ZS has built proprietary tools and processes to help clients understand data. We are passionate not only about understanding our clients’ data but also the context of it. This positions us to help clients identify opportunities to make business decisions that drive profitable revenue growth.
ZS brings a unique blend of consulting, analytics, technology and operations in its client offerings. Consulting frameworks enables us to frame the problem accurately, analytics capabilities help us get the solutions right the first time, technology capabilities allows us to design and develop tools/processes for efficient delivery and monitoring, and lastly our operation capabilities ensures we have the right processes in place to enable automation and scalability of the solutions.
6. On to the CAO Summit: What is your expectation for the summit?
We would like to accomplish the following:
a. Hear from industry leaders and practitioners on any emerging trends with respect to tools, processes and technologies.
b. Understand how, in industry leaders’ POVs, analytics will change their ability to make business decisions in the future.
c. Network with industry leaders and practitioners.
d. Identify any potential opportunities of engagement with these prospective clients.
e. Lastly, share information about ZS and our POV on specific practice areas within analytics, cementing our leadership position in this space.
7. The theme for this year’s CAO Summit is “Advancing Analytics” with a focus on analytical maturity across the enterprise. What does the term “analytical maturity” mean to you?
For us, analytical maturity means that an organization has understanding of the importance of data and analytics for the future growth of its businesses. Senior decision makers are well aware of what analytics tools and techniques are impacting different business processes under their control. They have a robust mechanism in place for constant upgrade and socialization of the analytics function in all business processes within the organization. Analytics skills are treated as critical for the success of current and future leaders. The leverage that analytics functions provide is a regular agenda in business reviews.
8. Finally, what do the next 12 months look like for ZS?
Historically, we have been offering analytics services to clients across industry verticals within the B2B space. With growing awareness and availability of additional data sources, we expect further growth and penetration of our business within this space. In addition, we have started focusing more on B2C across these different verticals and expect to make an impact within the space during the next 12 to 24 months. We are in active conversations with many current and prospective clients on a range of solutions. These include but are not limited to account prospecting and potential, lead scoring, funnel management, propensity to buy and resell, and comprehensive reporting with new KPIs and metrics.