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When It Comes to Data Analytics, It’s the User, Stupid

While many companies are scrambling to hire data scientists or others formally trained in analytics with an eye toward effectively exploiting the potential of big data, they might be more effective altering their culture to nourish the curiosity of the users they already have.

shutterstock 143354404 150x150 When It Comes to Data Analytics, It’s the User, StupidIn fact, when it comes to big data analytics, top performing companies have sound understandings of their user bases and boast analytical mindsets, according to new research from Aberdeen Group.

“Top companies clarify, articulate and deliver on user needs for analytics, while others are often content to throw technology at their users and hope it sticks,” according to the report.

The research finds that 87% of user-focused companies report “improved” or “substantially improved” the quality of decision making compared to 60% of all other organizations.

In addition, 82% of user-focused companies report the same for speed of decision making compared to 44% of all other organizations.

User-focused companies have achieved:

  • A 14% year-over-year improvement in operating profit compared with a 10% improvement for all other companies
  • A 16% year-over-year improvement in operating cash flow compared with an 8% improvement for all other companies

“Each of these user-focused companies reports having a clearly defined process in place for gathering and communicating end-user requirements when it comes to analytics,” the report notes. “This paves the way for a better tailored ‘fit’ when it comes to the tools they provide, but also a more cost-effective approach, as it often allows for the removal of unwanted or unneeded functionality.”

In addition, user-focused companies understand the value of business instinct, but are committed to adding to that instinct with data-driven decision making. They also recognize that data governance and security are important and report having a collaborative and secured exchange of data across business functions, according to Aberdeen.

“In totality, this user-focused strategy leads to a variety of benefits, from the emotional to the quantifiable,” the report notes. “Because the user’s needs are typically better met, they operate in an analytically friendly environment and they have the data they need to make timely decisions, user-focused companies are able to provide broader access to analytical capabilities and enjoy higher adoption rates as a result.”

The top strategic actions for user-focused companies include:

  • Supporting business users to be self sufficient with business intelligence (43%)
  • Breaking down information silos (38%)
  • Providing analytics to more operational business functions (34%)

User-focused companies also have a more advanced way of measuring success than other organizations, according to Aberdeen. Seventy-nine percent of user-focused companies report having clearly defined, frequently measured key performance indicators (KPIs), while only 45% of all other companies report the same.

“User-focused companies are more likely to have clearly defined KPIs that are not only measured and monitored regularly, but also re-examined and updated on a more frequent basis,” the report notes. “Other companies are more likely to have poorly defined KPIs that are seldom measured and in some cases, have little or no KPI management in place at all.”

The report also finds that top performing companies are 85% more likely than all others to have an executive-level sponsor for analytics and were 98% more likely than all others to have a single, central repository of operational performance data.

“Analytics is about harnessing curiosity and connecting people to the tools and data they need to feed that curiosity to make better decisions,” the report concludes. “Building an analytical culture is about awakening the curiosity to understand what makes a business survive and thrive. It’s about defining the metrics that really matter and measuring them relentlessly. It’s not just about finding new answers, but about finding new questions to ask.”

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