In the not-too-distant past, analytics used to be seen as after-the-fact reporting, dashboarding, charts — understanding what had already happened. Today, analytics is much more tightly coupled with business strategy and product development. It is used to inform and guide decision-making in real-time.
This shift is due in part to the increasing availability of data. There are now more data sources than ever before, and they are producing more data than ever before. This means data is being generated at an ever-increasing pace, making it difficult for many businesses to keep up, let alone take full advantage of the possibilities that lie at their feet.
It’s not just the volume of data that has changed, it’s also the quality. Data is now more accurate and timelier, thanks to advances in data collection and processing technologies. This has made it possible to use data to understand not just what has happened in the past, but also what is happening right now and what is expected to happen in the future.
This shift has had — or, in too many cases, ought to have — a major impact on the way businesses operates. In the past, businesses would make decisions based on their own experience and intuition. Today, they should be increasingly incorporating data-driven insights to guide their decision-making.
This change has been driven by the need to be more agile and responsive to the ever-changing and competitive market. In the past, businesses could afford to take their time to make decisions. Today, they need to be able to make decisions quickly, based on the latest data.
This change has also been driven by demands to be more efficient and accurate in investments and use of resources. In the past, businesses would often make decisions based on hunches or guesswork, and there’s a certain “they did the best they could do” asterisk against such decisions that turned out poorly.
Today, with the high-quality and real-time data available in every business sector globally, a growing expectation is placed on decisions being correct and backed by the data.
Hopefully it’s becoming clear that organisations need to embrace the capabilities made available to them with modern analytics. However, modern analytics isn’t delivered by simply hiring an analyst; organisations need to consider how their analytics function interweaves with the business as a whole.
In many cases, analytics can neatly sit alongside both the business strategy and operations teams, forming a vital link between these levels of an organisation. Other times, a business partner approach can work well. In any case, an organisation’s analytics function must be underpinned by investment in systems, processes, and most importantly of all, the business culture.
Business culture means promoting a data-driven mindset throughout the organisation, from the boardroom to the front line. It means everyone in the organisation understands that data should be used to inform their own decision-making.
It also means creating an environment where it’s safe to experiment, where failure is seen as a learning opportunity rather than a cause for punishment. And it means having the right people with right skills in place. Communication skills and data literacy are as equally important as technical prowess.
Consider if an internal analytics function is right for the scale of your organisation. In many cases, analytics isn’t a core business skill, and the investment required to manage this in-house isn’t worth it; good analysts and systems don’t come cheap. Quality analytics-as-a-service offerings can deliver great outcomes while remaining cost-effective.
Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to utilising analytics into an organisation, but there are some key principles that all organisations should bear in mind:
- Modern analytics deserves to be tightly-coupled with business strategy
- Data can and should be used to inform and guide decision-making in real-time
- Organisations should take advantage of the increasing availability and quality of data
- Move beyond just analysing what’s happened in the past. Instead, look towards the future.