|The SAP Mentor Spotlight Series highlights key strategic topics and provides insights from SAP Mentors and SAP leaders on turning ideas into innovative approaches that impact people, process, and technology.|
Community participation is the power to bring positive, measurable change to communities both as a volunteer and within professional circles. Supporting a network brings value and growth opportunities for everyone. Learning and developing is a continuous endeavor.
For Heather Hill contributing to communities is a lifelong passion. She is actively involved in the analytics community as an international speaker, published co-author of the SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence – The Comprehensive Guide, and SAP mentor.
Heather applies her passion for delivering business intelligence and analytics initiatives, enabling winning teams, and empowering women and a diverse group of leaders through her coaching solutions.
Recently I had the pleasure to connect with Heather on her approach to delivering value to individuals and organizations, along with her career journey, and what inspired her along the way.
SF: You were an intern for Arizona State Congressman, Matt Salomon during your studies at American University. How did this experience lead to a career in Business Intelligence (BI) as an expert, author, international speaker, and leader?
HH: I enjoyed seeing our democracy at work and being involved in the inner workings of the system during my time in Washington, DC. I did not find a love for data and analytics until years later. I started my career in the accounting field. It was a natural path for me as my mother was a Chief Financial Officer for a non-profit organization. Accounting relies heavily on data and information, and I spent a great deal of time analyzing data to understand spending patterns, forecasting revenue pipelines, and reconciling accounts. I started customizing reports to better suit my needs. Back then I was using Crystal Reports. I found the business intelligence space to be exciting compared to the monotony of monthly accounting processes, so I decided to make a move. I’m a true data nerd and love the BI community so it was very natural for me to begin speaking and writing to help others on their journey.
SF: As board director for the Arizona Foundation for Women, a philanthropy that promotes the safety, health, and economic security of women, as well as a chapter lead for Phoenix Women in Data, you’ve made a huge contribution to the welfare of many females! What inspires you to pursue volunteer work outside of your busy life as a BI Success coach and mother?
HH: I am a huge advocate for more women in our BI community. I’ve worked in male-dominated industries with male-dominated teams for years and the experience drew me to help other women on the same journey. Studies show that companies with more diversity drive higher revenues, so it just makes sense.
Community and collaboration are critical for the success of women. It is difficult for women to focus on career and family at the same time. I know because I juggled being a single mother to two boys before marrying my husband and creating a new blended family. Married or single, kids or no kids, work-life balance is difficult. We can get passed up for a promotion because we can’t always put in the same hours and crave more balance. I want to help other women with support and advocacy to change the conversation. It’s my passion so I prioritize the time.
SF: How and why did you become an SAP Mentor? What has the experience been like for you?
HH: I met past mentors at an SAP TechEd event and really enjoyed their passion and conversation. They introduced me to the program. I’ve always been opinionated about the SAP BI technology. When I found out that I could help make an impact on product direction and strategy as an SAP Mentor, I wanted in. I enjoy getting a more in-depth understanding of the analytics strategy by having one-on-one or small group conversations with the product developers and executives. It is always energizing.
SF: Recently you participated in the #askSAP Analytics Innovation Community Call, which was a discussion on the adoption of BI & Analytics solutions. Market data suggests that barely a quarter (or a third, at most) of decision-makers have adopted BI and analytics solutions. When an organization is looking to improve decision-making, what are the initial steps that they should consider to become more confident in turning data-driven, fact-based insights into value and tangible outcomes?
HH: I can’t say this enough, the analytics should start with the customer. The insights should be driven by the business stakeholders who make the decisions. They know what will move the needle and make an impact for their organization. Then work together to create the story in a visual way that enables them to quickly get the answers and then move on to their jobs. Finally, you need a winning strategy that aligns change agents within your business to grow adoption. Keep it simple and continue to iterate on the process. I teach on how to create a BI strategy that aligns with your organization as part of my coaching program.
HH: As I said earlier, failure is driven by not aligning the analytics story to the business value. You can’t create a technical solution to a business problem. I worked with a healthcare company to identify information workers (analysts/change agents), within their operations department, and create a training program to grow data literacy allowing the business to be the driving force behind insight creation. The chosen change agents were able to redefine metrics and business analytics to ultimately find a huge discrepancy in revenue recognition that eventually saved the company millions of dollars.
I also worked with a company going through a merger who had two sets of metrics, reports, technology, and people. Each side had their own agenda and own goals, so bringing them together was a tough job that took some finesse. I was able to bring the teams together to speak a common language and agree on a single set of metrics (top to bottom) to run their newly combined business.
SF: For students and recent grads who are looking to work in Business Intelligence and Analytics field, what advice would you give them to get started on their journey?
HH: Don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. Mentors and coaches can help you grow not only your technical skills but your soft skills as well. Being successful in the BI and Analytics field isn’t just about understanding the technology. For example, it’s important to understand how to communicate with all levels of the organization, build strategic relationships, and pitch an idea.