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3/26/2007
07:47 PM
Mark Smith
Mark Smith
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Prof. Davenport Misses the Point of Analytics

I recently sat in on a keynote presentation by Thomas Davenport of Babson College, who wrote a much-touted article on analytics in Harvard Business Review last year. He identified analytics as a competitive market advantage and illustrated his point with some case studies. It's certainly important to recognize their value, but analytics alone are only a small part of what is missing in business today.

I recently sat in on a keynote presentation by Thomas Davenport of Babson College, who wrote a much-touted article on analytics in Harvard Business Review last year. He identified analytics as a competitive market advantage and illustrated his point with a number of case studies.

It's certainly important to recognize the value of analytics and to broaden the discussion, but analytics alone are only a small part of what is currently missing in business. To effectively apply the results of analytics also requires appropriate management processes and an understanding of how to utilize metrics and other relevant information to change operating plans, create initiatives and make decisions collaboratively, all while keeping an eye on the goals that matter.Davenport referred to scorecards as a reporting tool, a common misunderstanding that limits their true benefit. Scorecards let management share information, link metrics to objectives, proactively identify gaps and establish initiatives, and take actions to improve performance. Managing in the moment demands input from predictive analytics to identify future problems.

As we consider how to get more from analytics, we need to move beyond just empowering analysts, whom Davenport considers cornerstones of his DELTA maturity model (where A stands for Analyst). It would be useful as well to educate management on the latest generation of performance management thinking and tools. We should also remember the pragmatic wisdom of Peter Drucker, who said that we can manage only what we can measure. In this context, while analytics are great for forward-looking activities, they are just as important for measuring the past and using it to prepare for the future.

Pundits may want to make their pet projects - in this case, analytics - the center of the universe, but each is but a small piece of the puzzle that brings together people, processes, information and technology to meet business goals. Let me know your thoughts.I recently sat in on a keynote presentation by Thomas Davenport of Babson College, who wrote a much-touted article on analytics in Harvard Business Review last year. He identified analytics as a competitive market advantage and illustrated his point with some case studies. It's certainly important to recognize their value, but analytics alone are only a small part of what is missing in business today.

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