Quirk's London: Transforming Insight with the IMA

Thanks to everyone who attended one of the four IMA sessions at Quirk's London! It was a pleasure to see so many corporate Insight leaders across the last two days, and I hope that all the IMA members who took advantage of the free tickets really enjoyed themselves.

So what did we learn from the Insight leaders at Aviva, Marks & Spencer, Sport England and Spire Healthcare?

Transforming Insight at Aviva

Rhea Fox spoke engagingly about her Insight career from financial services, through the Daily Mail Group, and then eBay, to her new role at Aviva.

One of her key messages was her belief that Insight teams have to make friends with Finance, and recognise that we cannot help our organisations solve problems and seize commercial opportunities if we don't know the financial numbers and understand how our companies makes money.

This has become a major theme at the IMA's quarterly Insight Forum meetings, with many of the most progressive Insight teams now accepting that we analysts, researchers and Insight managers have a crucial role to play in helping organisations improve their performance. Commercial success depends on understanding how customers interact with our organisations and how value is created, and Customer Insight is as important a contributor to that understanding as Finance or internal management reporting.

Transforming Insight at Marks & Spencer

The IMA's conversation with Hayley Ward drew an audience of 120 people at 5pm on Tuesday evening, and Hayley gave a brilliant description of the way she has embedded her team within key business lines at Marks & Spencer. She emphasised the importance of relationships with key decision makers, and also the way that her team advise them based on their accumulated understanding.

It is so easy for all of us in corporate Insight teams to spend our time on new pieces of research and analysis, but senior decision makers really value our ability to join the dots and give an opinion based on evidence drawn from multiple sources. Assembing those big pictures takes time and commitment, however, and it also demands a different skillset to technical research and analysis.

Transforming Insight at Sport England

Lisa O'Keefe from Sport England inspired our early morning audience on Wednesday with the story of her career and belief in the power of Insight to change behaviour. Lisa, an international rugby star for 15 years, became Director of Sport at Sport England, before recognising that without Insight they would continue to fund the same sports associations in the same way they always had. What was needed was a cultural revolution with an Insight team questioning whether existing practices were still fit for purpose.

To put it another way, if Sport England really wanted to change the behaviour of a nation, it first had to change its own behaviour, and it would be the role of the Insight team to provide the evidence and inspiration to make that happen.

Transforming Insight at Spire Healthcare

Will Ranner's fluent account of life at the UK's second largest private healthcare provider gave us an expert's view into the challenges of creating an Insight team in a company which had never previously had one. Will also emphasised the importance of developing accumulated knowledge, working closely with decision makers, and getting to grips with the commercial numbers. In fact it is now the Insight team which are challenging the rest of his organisation to become more commercial, blending revenue and cost figures with a fresh perspective on the market opportunity for each hospital.

Will's account showed how you don't need to have a large Insight team to make a difference - if you select your projects carefully and work out where Insight can make the best return on investment.

How does your Insight team compare to Aviva, M&S, Sport England and Spire Healthcare?

If you would like to find out, the IMA offers all corporate Insight teams a FREE benchmarking service. Please click to complete the Insight Leader Survey and we will send you a report.