12 Ways To Connect Data Analytics To Business Outcomes

Even though more organizations are attempting to become data-driven, many of them still aren't able to link data analytics to business outcomes. Some of the challenges are obvious. Others aren't. Here are our tips for avoiding the common pitfalls.
Start With A Business Problem
Unify Data Strategy And Business Strategy
Decide Where The Data Team Should Reside
Break Down Organizational Barriers
Embrace Change
Manage Change Effectively
Think Critically
Recognize Details Matter
Start Small And Grow
Divide Labor
Accept Failure
Stop Torturing Data

One could argue the purpose of data analytics has always been to achieve business outcomes. Yet, enterprises still struggle to realize the potential business value of their investments. Despite the availability of a wide array of improved technologies, it's easy for company cultures, organizational structures, and even problem-solving approaches to get in the way.

"The fundamental premise is it's a technology problem. It reminds me of the early Internet days [when people said] 'We have this capability, what problem can we solve?'" said Jeff McMillan, managing director at Credit Suisse. "That's not how it works. You have a business issue and need to bring a set of capabilities to bear."

Departmental barriers continue to impede progress. Some companies are restructuring to compete more effectively in the digital economy, but the expanding C-suite may frustrate the ability to drive business outcomes.

"Not too long ago, we had a CIO and a group of people who were the caretakers of the databases," said Anthony Scriffignano, VP and chief data scientist at Dun & Bradstreet, in an interview. "Now you've got a CDO, CISO, CIO, CMO … a lot of C-level people in the room, all with different mandates, reporting to different lines in the organization that should own the data. The reality is that data is like oil. All of these people will only see the value in the oil if they cooperate and make something that people want to buy or the company needs."

The aspiration is there, according to a Forrester Research survey of enterprise architects that was published in October 2015. The challenges arise in translating the analytical results into measurable business actions.

"Technology is way ahead of culture. The vendors packaging data and analytics tools and insight platforms are removing a lot of the complexity," said Brian Hopkins, VP and principal analyst at Forrester, in an interview. "The problem is, you still have to fund it, you still have to get people to agree with it, and you have to overcome organizational issues."

Here are 12 things organizations can do to drive more business value from data. Once you've reviewed these, let us know if any have worked for you. Is your organization challenged to connect data analytics to business outcomes? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

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