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Minding the Analytics Gap

Book Description

In an increasingly data-driven business environment, many executives must make critical decisions based on analyses that use data and statistical methods that they do not fully understand. How can executives with limited analytics expertise become adept consumers of analytics under such conditions? This question has become an important management issue as senior executives increasingly recognize the importance of analytics to creating business value. The authors’ research — based on a survey of 2,719 managers in organizations from around the world — found that the foremost barrier to creating business value from analytics is not data management or complex modeling skills. Instead, the number one barrier mentioned by survey respondents involved translating analytics into business actions — in other words, making business decisions based on the results, not producing the results themselves. With more access to useful data, companies are increasingly using sophisticated analytical methods. That, the authors argue, means there’s often a gap between an organization’s capacity to produce analytical results and its ability to apply them effectively to business issues. Much can be done to make analytics more consumable for managers. At the individual level, data analysts can learn more about the business; in fact, about a third (34%) of the survey respondents reported that their organizations train analytics professionals to understand business issues. Organizations can also systemically improve infrastructure and processes; improved data quality, for example,can make it easier to turn data into competitive advantage. Managers can also take steps to become savvier at understanding analytical results. In fact, managers and executives are working to become more knowledgeable about data and analytics: Many of the survey respondents reported that their organizations develop analytical skills through on-the-job (58%) or formal (23%) training. Almost half the respondents (49%) reported that their organizations train managers to make better use of analytics. Beyond training, other known steps include: identifying trustworthy analytics professionals within the organization, requiring straightforward explanations and asking detailed questions. However, the authors’ research indicates that, despite their efforts, managers continue to find it difficult to keep pace with their organization’s analysts for two reasons: burgeoning analytics sophistication and competing demands for managerial attention. What’s more, when an organization’s capacity to produce increasingly sophisticated analytics outpaces managers’ abilities to understand, discomfort is created — managers find they must make decisions based on complex analytical insights that they do not yet fully understand. But, despite this discomfort, these managerial decisions must be made. The authors conclude by suggesting five ways that managers can increase their comfort in consuming analytics. Reprint 56320. For ordering information, see page 6.