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A Discussion of Analytics with Chicago Executives

Last week, Clarkston hosted a group of Chicagoland executives to discuss recent trends in Analytics. The current mainstream conversation around Analytics tends to embrace the transformative benefits while setting high expectations around standardized applications that can churn out insights at the touch of a button. The goal of this forum was to peel back some of the hyperbole and have an earnest discussion about where the bar is really set amongst peers. Overall the groups expectations about the near term value of Analytics was tempered while some enlightening experiences were shared. Here’s a breakdown of what was discussed:

The IT Department Shouldn’t Own Analytics

While there needs to be a strong partnership between business and IT and there is a strong technical component associated with Analytics, successful initiatives were almost entirely driven by the business. This is an interesting contrast to the school of thought that success ultimately needs to be driven by a centralized Analytics function. Perhaps the answer lays in some kind of business/technology hybrid role, but it is clear that this balance has not yet been perfected.

Strong Need to Understand the Balance Between Innovation and Analysis

By the very nature of Analytics, you are restricted to an outcome that is solely predicated by history. A strategy overly focused on data and number crunching limits those creative minds that drive disruptive change. The discussion reinforced the notion of being able to communicate insights as being a key tenet to a successful strategy and also indentified the need to get the right people the right data. The takeaway here was that functions driving Analytics need to be able to communicate insights to the innovators in the company in a manner that they understand. This is a challenge easier said than done, but little is done today to focus on this transfer of information.

Overall, there was still a lot of enthusiasm for the long term benefits and the potential competitive advantage that Analytics can bring. But, there also was a strong agreement amongst the group that there is a lot of work left to do. Connecting Analytics to corporate strategy and getting the right people in place to drive it remain the biggest challenge.  The ability to test and reinforce business assumptions as part of the strategy is another area of opportunity. It was clear that the next major hurdle to clear in the Analytics journey is the organization challenges.