For Data Analytics to Go Mainstream, Cultures Need to Change

For Data Analytics to Go Mainstream, Cultures Need to ChangeThere is now an array of powerful technology poised to transform every organization on earth into lean, mean, data analytics-driven machines – if they let it.

That’s the challenge we have before us – getting the organization on board with the promises of data analytics. A recent survey of 314 senior executives across a range of industries, conducted by Forbes Insights and Dun & Bradstreet, finds analytics initiatives are being starved of skills and organizational impetus.

Businesses don’t yet have the right tools in place where they can make a difference, the survey finds. “Analytical methods and tools trail both the appetite and ambition of most business leaders,” the report states, noting that “23% of analytics professionals are still using spreadsheets as their primary tool for data analysis. There is a dire need for better data analytics best practices, with 19% using only basic data models and regressions.”

The best way to move forward, the report adds, is to encourage business leaders to “do more with all the data their teams are consuming and analyzing. Only 38% of respondents strongly felt that business leaders took full advantage of their analytics initiatives.”

Data analytics skills gaps persist across enterprises, the survey finds. More than one in four executives, 27%, surveyed cite this skills gap as a major impediment in their data initiatives.

“The C-Suite and all business leaders need to spearhead a wholesale cultural change across the enterprise to help drive adoption and utilization of advanced analytics,” the report states. There are stirrings of change in various parts of organizations – for example, data analytics has moved from IT and finance to the majority of business functions, the report finds.

“Data analytics is the new competitive differentiator. Business leaders that grasp this and commit to it will succeed. Those who delay do so at their own risk.”

Here are some words of advice on building a data analytics culture:

Be a proponent for cultural change

There are a number of steps that need to be taken to address cultural issues that get in the way of progress, For starters, the study finds, I’s important to “be transparent and accountable for success and failure.” This requires good metrics. Executive management support is also a prerequisite of cultural change. “As employees see executives prioritizing analytics-driven results, it sets a key strategic tone. The power of a C-Level executive sponsor cannot be underestimated. Achieving and sustaining momentum is critical as colleagues are asked to modify processes, management cadences, and decision-making frameworks.”

Keep evangelizing analytics power

The survey finds only 38% of respondents strongly felt that business leaders took full advantage of analytics. More needs to be done in terms of getting data analytics proponents in front of business decision makers. “Once implemented, helping colleagues understand the meaning of insights is critical. Executive analytics leaders need to teach colleagues how to derive truth and meaning from analytics. ‘Why did sales really fall in the first quarter? Why is our supplier perpetually shipping late? Why are sales to the energy sector down?’”

Build metrics for each key department or discipline

“The importance of establishing success metrics cannot be over-emphasized,” the survey’s authors state. The research finds significant gaps in metrics. When asked to select top challenges, 32% of respondents chose “metrics are not established up front,” and 34% chose “expected outcomes are poorly defined.” The report urges that executives work with each key department to build meaningful measurements for each analytical exercise.


(Disclosure: I have conducted project work in the past 12 months for Forbes Insights, mentioned in this post.)