At this week’s Gartner Business Intelligence and Analytic Summit, one of the most interesting sessions was taken by Gartner VP Frank Buytendijk. Although his approach was a good deal less detailed than many of his peers, he brought an illuminating perspective to an issue that was one of the conference’s key talking points.
Attendees at this week’s event would be hard pressed to dispute that the momentum in business analytics is shifting away from data discovery, towards value-driven analysis designed to inform proactive management decisions. Instead of looking at the technological changes that are making this possible, Mr Buytendijk offered his insights on the changes in attitude and mindset that are necessary to take advantage.
Analytics initiatives that are not focused on a specific business outcome may produce interesting insight on the business. But, if those insights cannot be used to improve business performance then, essentially, the effort has been wasted. The key message of Mr Buytendijk’s session was that IT leaders should not to be preoccupied with simply examining data, or even just making it easier to understand, but must focus instead on insights connected to real, immediate business challenges.
This shift in the use of analytics offers IT leaders an opportunity to really drive improvements in business management. IT professionals being asked to deliver insight should realise that they are not just being asked for business information, but to provide the raw materials that drive business change.
Business leaders often don’t know, or don’t fully understand what is possible in terms of analysis, and are therefore not always prepared to ask for the most useful insights. But IT leaders can enhance their ability to support the business by evangelising those techniques and technologies that will help drive business decision making.
This input extends too to the level of detail included in analysis. If technology professionals have to simplify data and models then they risk, to use Mr Buytendijk’s words, ‘abstracting the truth.’
Business is anything but simple, and efforts to simplify data and models must be done with great care if business leaders are to have any confidence in the resulting analysis. IT leaders can make sure that this is the case, by ensuring that appropriate governance is in place, but also by making sure that analysis is based on a credible model of the business, rather than a set of simplified assumptions.
It’s clear that the current advances in business analysis technology will generate real competitive advantage for those businesses that apply them effectively. By focusing on and advocating analysis built around management challenges, IT leaders have an opportunity to greatly increase the value they can offer to the wider business.