Yes, it’s a sacrilege, and I acknowledge it wholeheartedly. Analytics and strategy go hand-in-hand in almost all organizations today. Where there’s media planning, brand planning, or business planning, there’s always the analytics person on standby to help build the strategy. There’s also an analytics person — usually the same analyst — who is there to measure the outcome of the strategy.

Many agencies and consulting firms today staff their teams accordingly. The Analytics team sits within the Strategy function. The “boss on high” is the EVP Strategist. When staffing a team to service a brand, there are hours allocated to a strategy person, and hours allocated to an analytics person, with the two working ideally side by side.

In fact, my own career began as a staff analyst helping Advance Digital make a huge, elaborate data-driven “case” for taking newspaper content, digital. I joined the company about 10 years after it had started, a long-game bet by the Newhouse family in the future of news. My job was to develop and help manage an enterprise-wide dataset that helped the content strategy team redesign the face of news.

Today is a moment just like that one. Only instead of content and newspapers, this year marks a critical pivot-point in the world of data. This is a sink-or-swim moment, akin to the moment in news when newspaper editors could invest in digital content creation or go the way of the dinosaur.

What makes this moment so critical? Data has become the lifeblood of how content is designed and delivered. Real-time content delivery and personalized experiences are cropping up in industries from retail to travel to banking. Gone (or, near-gone) are the days of “snackable content” designed for “moments of meaning.” We’re making the leap now into walled gardens and closed systems where content is developed and served to enrolled audiences in real-time.

This requires a much stronger data strategy & building capacity that many agencies and consulting firms have going today. In order to remain competitive, agencies and consulting firms should be brainstorming a go-to-market approach that pairs Operations leads and Analytics leads together. The end-to-end delivery of strategic ideas, execution, and measurement/optimization is no longer a cycle that just the Analytics and strategy team has memorized and down pat. Rather, it is something that should be fully operationalized and ideally automated, from data strategy/tagging and architecture, to experience design, to reporting and outcomes measurement.

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