Data analytics tips as developed by Disney

The Walt Disney Company is a massive organization spanning the globe with everything from animation to amusement parks to hotels and resorts under its umbrella.

But Bonnie Spalding, consulting director for Disney, said much of the company’s approach to data analytics grew out of the practices innovated at the company’s hotels.

Speaking during “The magic of mastering analytics” session at HSMAI’s 2018 Revenue Optimization Conference, Spalding shared some insights into how her company approaches analytics.

She noted the company has 140 people—or “cast members” in Disney parlance—on its data team, roughly a third of which have doctorates.

“We have this group of really specialized, science-driven team members,” she said. “It creates a center of excellence within the organization.”

There is no end point

Spalding said it’s important for organizations recognize there’s no point where they’ve solved data analytics, and instead it’s a journey of continual improvement. She said Disney’s journey in data—which started with proving success in the hotels and parks before growing more widespread—mirrors that of revenue management in the hotel industry, which began with incremental successes in room inventory management before growing in other areas.

She added that mentality is key in winning over stakeholders like owners or general managers.

“If you prove success in the rooms segment, that enables credibility and talent to move into the next steps or other areas or opportunities in an organization,” she said.

Steps in the journey

Spalding said it’s important to recognize that different organizations are at different points in that journey to mastery in data analytics, and there are several stepping stones along the way. She referenced the book “Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning” to note that organizations start as “analytically impaired.” She mentioned the other stages—localized analytics, analytical aspirations, analytical companies and analytical competitors—while noting many organizations naturally stop at the localized stage.

Reaching that stage “could end the journey, but what makes or breaks it is the buy-in,” she said.

Spalding said as companies grow in their use of analytics, they become more integrated and data is used as the “drivers and measures of success within an organization,” which she said is key.

“A lot of us get stuck a bit on transactional analytics,” she said.

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