Analytics – Everyone wants it, a lot of people use it, few people use it well. Despite the appeal and seeming ubiquity of business analytics today, the experience of the typical business user leaves a lot to be desired.
Findings from a recent Aberdeen report show that the least technical (but also typically largest) group of users is experiencing substantial discontent when it comes to several critical aspects of analytics, including:
- Ease-of-use. In order to connect with an audience of non-technical users, today’s analytical solutions generally need to be visually engaging, easy-to-use, and easily adaptable to the needs of these people (79% of respondents dissatisfied or indifferent).
- Data access. It is rare that a business decision rests on information from one silo or application within a modern IT environment. Top-notch analysis and insight is generated from different sources of information, applications, and data stores across the company. Unfortunately, most business decision makers are not getting the kind of access they need (66% of respondents dissatisfied or indifferent).
- Relevance of capabilities. A close cousin of the ease-of-use factor, analytical relevance is a big part of driving adoption and engagement in the tools and activities. The finance department might need better budgeting and forecasting capabilities, and the operations team might need real-time visualization of critical metrics. A close coupling of these capabilities with the needs of the business user is vital, but all too often lacking in the line-of-business (64% of respondents dissatisfied or indifferent).
The obvious solution to this discontent would be to plan, strategize, and deliver a better suite of analytical capabilities more closely mapped to the needs of the user. Leading organizations are most certainly doing that, but they start their efforts further back in the analytical value chain, so to speak. The research shows that Leaders are much more likely to have data preparation capabilities in place that are approachable and accessible to the line-of-business (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Data Preparation Capabilities
Traditional IT activities like data integration, enterprise data management, data quality enhancement, and enterprise service bus (ESB) are generally placed under the umbrella of data preparation today. Many of these platforms also now include more process-oriented capabilities like data governance, data lineage tracking, data masking, and other tools for data oversight and traceability.
The research shows that Leaders are more likely to have these capabilities in place, but more importantly, that these tools are more often available to non-technical users.
Imagine a scenario where a marketing manager is trying to predict the efficacy of an upcoming campaign. Using visualization tools and predictive modeling, he or she might need access to results from previous campaigns, but also to product data, financial data, or sales information.
With a tightly coupled connection between these analytical capabilities and a sound platform for data preparation, the user can access quality data and the point of analysis, producing a more streamlined process of data discovery, all without the requirement of a PhD or Master’s degree in statistical analysis.