Assessing Analytical Maturity of an Organization – Part 1: Are Your Analytics Efforts Viable?

How did David with only a staff, sling, and five stones from a brook defeat the Philistine giant Goliath? Why did the ‘unsinkable ship of dreams’, the Titanic sink to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean on its maiden voyage? And why are organizations, big or small, unable to extract true value even after investing millions of dollars in their analytical capabilities? [1]

Before attempting to answer or diagnose the answer which may vary across texts, situations or circumstances, and expert opinions, it is imperative to understand the question in the context of analytics efforts of organizations. While we have attempted to define the ‘value of analytics’ earlier [2], for the purposes of this article, we will be referring to the inability to extract value as siloed analytical efforts catering to a limited scope or unnaturally high investments which serve to bolster only one dimension instead of providing an incremental holistically. This leads to low consumption, in turn leading to low ROI, eventually leading to a large-scale failure of the analytical transformation of the organization.

So, coming back to the question at hand. Why does it happen? Why do organizations fail to extract true value? Varied as the response might be, ranging from attribution to the Dunning-Kruger effect to dismissing it as an inexplicable eventuality, we believe there exists a simpler explanation.

Analytical efforts not yielding value or being viable lies in the incorrect assessment of the current state. To understand the viability of the analytical efforts, it is prudent to understand if it is in line with the analytical maturity of the organization itself. This begets a series of questions and we aim to address a few in this series. Primarily:

1.What does ‘Analytical Maturity’ mean?

2.How do I conduct the analytics maturity assessment of my organization?

Analytical Maturity is, as the term suggests, based on the role analytics plays in day-to-day decision-making and business processes. In a world of self-driving cars, hyper-personalized recommendations on streaming services, delivery of orders through drones, etc., there also exist organizations which rely heavily on intuition and gut-based decisions to run their businesses. While some organizations are passionate about analytics and are relentless in their pursuit to search for new data and/or metrics, there are others where the efforts are siloed and, unfortunately, the potential benefits never see the light of day. All organizations, regardless of their domain or size, are safely housed on this spectrum or the analytical maturity curve as shown in Fig.1; their level of analytical maturity, contingent on the collective proficiency in 5 dimensions – data, infrastructure, talent, consumption and governance.

Ergo, the challenge posed to all leaders is also a common one.

“Remain relevant. Take the next step in the analytical maturity curve. Move from being intuition-driven to insight-driven. Be a step ahead in a world where tomorrow is already here and today is already history.”

How Do You Shin Up the Analytical Maturity Curve?

 “You cannot solve a problem until you acknowledge that you have one and take responsibility for solving it.” – Zig Ziglar

Organizations cannot become analytically driven overnight. Given the vast extent and the infinite possibilities of where an organization might lie on the spectrum, explaining the several stages is beyond the scope of this series. We will instead focus on the foundational step of how leaders can do the analytics maturity assessment of their organization. We hope to nudge organizations as they begin their analytical transformation.

To provide a birds-eye view of what’s in store in this series, we will be covering 5 dimensions:

Data – A look at the importance of having the right data elements, which are reliable and of good quality, necessary to develop and implement analytical solutions

Infrastructure – Delving into strengthening the foundational brick with data management. Setting up the right tools and technologies to enable impactful problem-solving while not only keeping up but staying ahead of the times

Talent – Putting people first and hiring the right talent in accordance with the current and future requirements. A quick view on management processes to ensure retention and satisfaction

Governance – A study on integrating analytics teams with the current ecosystem to succeed and have maximum impact. The need to lay out the processes and practices to define, plan, execute, deliver, and measure various analytical projects. A quick view on training and knowledge management activities and the role they play in defining the analytical maturity of an organization

Consumption – Identifying the right opportunities to deliver value. The results of analyses must be viable and valuable to the business, to impact positive change to top and bottom line (including the soft impact within the organization). This is a study on monitoring the shift in decision-making processes from being intuition-driven to being augmented by data-driven intelligence

An overarching theme will be the need for Analytics Leaders (including the CEOs) to be the change makers and definitive guides in formulating and executing the analytics vision. As ‘masters of their fate and captains of their soul’ (a loose reference to Invictus by William Ernest Henley), it is these leaders who will drive analytics from being an explicit process/function to ensuring it is inculcated into the DNA of the organization itself.

David Foster Wallace in his address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College[3] narrated the story of an old fish asking two young fish ‘How is the water today?’ which incited the puzzled response of ‘What is water?’ Analytics Leaders of today are charged with reminding themselves that ‘This is water’ and hence must choose to move past the default setting of maintaining status quo. They need to bring about the cultural change of using analytics in decision-making. Using data and analytics as a tool for strategy formulation all whilst continually pushing for analytics as a ‘way of life’.

Join us in what we hope will be an exciting and insightful journey as we present our point of view to help the leaders of today and tomorrow navigate through the choppy waters of the fast and ever-growing analytics industry. We hope to aid the ‘Davids’ as they take on the Goliath-sized task of assessing the analytical maturity of their organizations.