Think You Want To Be "Data-Driven"? Insight Is The New Data

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged; not because I’ve had nothing to say, but rather because I’ve been busy with my colleagues Ted Schadler, James McCormick, and Holger Kisker working on a new line of research. We wanted to examine the fact that business satisfaction with analytics went down 21% between 2014 and 2015, despite big investments in big data. We found that while 74% of firms say they want to be “data-driven,” only 29% say they are good at connecting analytics to action. That is the problem.

Ted Schadler and I published some initial ideas around this idea in Digital Insights Are The New Currency Of Business in 2015. In that report, we started using the phrase digital insight to talk about what firms were really after ― action inspired by new knowledge. We saw that data and analytics were only means to that end. We also found that leading firms were turning data into insight and action by building systems of insight ― the business discipline and technology to harness insights and consistently turn data into action.

Here is a key figure from that report:

Flash forward to 2016. This idea is resonating with customers; vendors are starting to use it; and Forrester’s data and analytics analysts have organized themselves around it. Why? Because while most BI efforts are one-way ― data to insight to hoping for action ― systems of insight close the loop between data and action with teams of people using the right processes and technology to continuously discover, test, and implement insights in software and decisions. What's more, they create feedback loops that measure outcomes, and they provide the tools to experiment, learn, and optimize. Connecting data to action in a closed loop is critical if you're going to reverse the downward trend in business satisfaction.

Now we're going to the next level in our research. Here’s what to expect:

  • Ted, James, and I are publishing a report called “The Insights-Driven Business.” We've interviewed even more firms and are up-leveling our findings to the C-suite. We're calculating the 2020 revenue of insights-driven startups and incumbents. (Hint: It’s a big number ripped out of your top lines.) Our study will identify how insights-driven businesses are built and operate differently ― and what everyone can do to beat or join them.
  • Holger Kisker, Jennifer Belissent, and I are studying insights platforms and services. Data and analytics technology are merging, and traditional BI services are changing. This research stream is analyzing these changes, the landscapes of vendors/providers, and the buyers driving them. Ultimately, we expect to perform a Forrester Wave™ evaluation of some new classes of tools and services that focus on the delivery of insights directly into your business and its software.
  • I will be keynoting at our Digital Transformation Forum in Orlando in May. I will be presenting the insights research, giving many rich examples of how the best firms are doing it, and talking about how you can become insights-driven, too. The $200 early bird discount ends March 26; if you use code DT16WEB to register, you get another $100 off.

So what about the title of this blog? Data analytics has received a ton of attention from vendors and the media, and the data driven mantra is deafening. This attention has been well intentioned but misplaced. In this emerging world of too much data, what matters most is how you discover and implement digital insight in the fabric of your business. To do this, you don’t need more data; you need systems of insight driven from the top by a culture that values insights-to-execution. And you need technology and services that bring together data, analytics, implementation, and continuous learning and optimization.

Comments

Analytics Deficit

Brian, thanks for this thoughtful article. We find enterprises struggling with an "analytics deficit" in that they have a surplus of data but shortage of insights. A primary reason is that conventional infrastructures lack the speed, scale and efficiency to process high volumes of highly varied data fast enough to generate sufficient insights for the business. As you point out, creating feedback loops to continuously improve the analytics process can generate further insights.
@KevinPetrieTech
www.attunity.com

Also an execution and learning deficit

Agree, but let's not stop there. We found firms lifting insights from more data, but not knowing which insights are mostly likely to drive action and outcomes. So we added the idea of "insights-to-execution" meaning that it's not enough just to be able to find more insights in more data (big data plays here), but you have to be able to test and implement potential insights to find out which ones actually create action and outcomes that matter. Furthermore you have to be able to instrument processes and applications to collect data that results from your actions and then optimize. Once you do this, you can start to experiment with the system of insight and really tune your analytics.
This is a key difference between SoI and BI thinking. BI thinking says, "I need more insight from my data". SoI thinking says, "I need insight that really makes a difference and I need to a closed loop systems to hone in my insight to execution over time".

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