The Knowledge Exchange / Business Analytics / Failing for the wrong reasons

Failing for the wrong reasons

Evan Stubbs, SAS

Pop quiz: when you’re trying to drive value from information, what do you need more than anything else?

Take a minute, have a real think about it. Maybe grab your beverage of choice before you answer; there’s no hurry, I’ll wait.

So what did you come up with? Quality of information? Good analytics? Insight? Access to big or comprehensive data? Having the right skills to analyse your information?

Top marks, but no distinction; they’re all important, sure. They’re all useful in getting to a better answer. But there’s one thing that outweighs everything else: doing something.

Insight without action is worthless. In fact, it’s probably less than worthless—instead of adding value, it actually destroys value. Saving data and coming up with answers doesn’t come cheap. If you don’t believe me, pause here and try to hire a decent analyst. Again, I’ll wait, although I’d suggest you take it on trust to save yourself from a rather painful lesson.

If you have an answer that isn’t acted on, you’ve actually wasted money.

It’s only when the answer is acted on that you have a hope of making a difference. It’s obvious, but it’s only when people realise this that the penny drops and they realise why their burn rate is absurdly high compared to the benefits they’re getting. Until you get the focus right, throwing money at the problem is just throwing good money after bad.

From where most people sit, business intelligence has become an oxymoron. Reports with no recommendations don’t make things easier. Instead, they just breed confusion. No one has time to read through a thousand reports and dashboards. Instead, tell me what’s important. Tell me what I should care about.

Tell me what to do.

Business analytics isn’t about insight. It’s not about getting the right answer. It’s about getting people to do things differently, better, and faster. It’s about turning data into action.

It’s not about the answer, it’s about the outcome.

Evan Stubbs is the author of The Value of Business Analytics, a book that explains why teams fail or succeed. His most recent book, Delivering Business Analytics explains the link between business analytics and competitive advantage, outlines the Data Scientist’s Code (a series of management principles that move organisations towards best practice), and provides solutions to twenty-four common business analytics problems.

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