As businesses rely more and more on analytics and data to make strategic decisions, they continue to struggle with some thorny issues, such as incorporating data into company culture and allowing employees to access the data they need, according to MIT Sloan Management Review and IBM’s Institute for Business Values Second Annual New Intelligent Enterprise Survey. They surveyed more than 4,000 executives, managers, and analysts from around the world and across a wide range of industries to understand how people use information and analytics for strategic decisions and tactical moves. While their results indicate challenges, it’s good to see that both organizational and technology issues are considered as critical for success.
Some of their key findings:
- Technology isn’t the problem, culture is. People tend to be tool- rather than implementation-focused, and respondents reported that organizational issues are nearly twice as difficult to solve as technological issues. The fact that the respondents see the organizational issues as being more difficult may mean that they are willing to put in the required organizational effort — perhaps signaling a change from what some research has found in the past.
- Leaders should practice what they preach. Thirty-nine percent of the respondents say fact-based decision making is one of the “most important behaviors business leaders should advance to increase the effectiveness of analytics use within [their] organization.” Sharing data, distributed decision making, broad access to data, articulation of the value of analytics, and rewards were also mentioned by many. Even experimentation made the list. This last shows a growing understanding that all data is not created equally. Sometimes we need to be proactive in terms of how we set up our questions and measurement.
- Employees need greater access to data. When asked whether they have “sufficient access to the information and analytics” needed to do their job successfully, only 33 percent of participants responded “to a great extent.” While transparency is a growing goal in organizations, it is still difficult to actually get access to information, even with the technology tools we have to track information. The IBM/MIT respondents report that “almost one-fifth either have limited or no access to the data they need to succeed in their jobs.”
- Businesses use analytics to achieve their primary business objectives. More than 30 percent of respondents listed real-time decisions, improving resource allocation and reducing costs as objectives for using analytics. Increasing employee productivity, accelerating development, and fostering collaborative decision making are all mentioned by at least 20 percent of respondents. Our access to work-related information is growing, but I expect that our understanding of how to effectively use this information hasn’t kept up. Wishing your statistics teachers had done more than teach probability?
This reports gives a snapshot of how our increasing ability to measure aspects of work provides value. I look forward to the full report, available in the Fall, where they say they will provide refined results and, where possible, compare results from 2010.
However, as in most things, just having a new analytics tool won’t be the answer. We’re going to have to understand the information and then find ways to weave the results into organizational and personal changes. For example, I just bought Davenport, Harris, and Morison’s new book, Analytics at Work in hope that their examples will help me learn to apply the information I have more effectively. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see a review and discussion of how their ideas can be woven into the connected workplace.
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