Despite power of data, many organizations lag in making it key to their decision-making culture, a Deloitte survey finds

In today’s hyper-connected, data-driven business world, the amount of available data is overwhelming. And while the concept of “big data” has been around for more than a decade, many companies are still lagging when it comes to using that data to make decisions.

Insight-driven organizations (IDO), according to a recent Deloitte survey, are those that have made a transition to relying on data and analytics, instead of intuition, to make many of their business decisions. Technologies, led by artificial intelligence (AI), have the ability to support these insight-based decisions, giving companies a competitive advantage when they integrate them.

In April, Deloitte asked questions of more than 1,000 executives working at companies with more than 500 employees who interact with analytics as part of their job. The survey delved into how companies see their progress and to what degree they use data in their decision-making processes. They were also asked about their culture and how it helped or hindered the integration of data into their organizations.

The survey is called “Analytics and AI-driven enterprises thrive in the Age of With: The culture catalyst.” The authors explained that the “Age of With” describes how “organizations can gain advantage by designing systems in which humans and machines work together to improve the speed and quality of decision-making.”

Data and Surpassing Business Goals

According to survey results, many organizations have adopted technologies and created teams to analyze data, but few are making the transition to a mature IDO. Some companies use basic data or use data in certain areas of the company. A very few fully embrace their data and analytics, using the entire scope of available information in their decision-making processes. When companies effectively use data and analytics, they regularly surpass business goals at rates far beyond those that don’t take advantage of data.

Many companies feel they’re making progress because they have invested in technology and created teams to manage data. Some have created new leadership roles including chief data officers (CDO), but the reality is they have only enacted tactical solutions.

Here are the survey’s overarching findings:

  • Most executives don’t believe their companies are insight-driven. Only about 37% rated their companies in the top levels of the maturity scale; the remaining participants stated they are aware of analytics, but are not using it optimally.
  • Culture can be a catalyst or a hindrance. Regardless of the expertise of staff or tools available, companies are twice as likely to be successful when their corporate culture supports a strong analytics culture. But it’s difficult.
  • Executive sponsorship is key. When the CEO is a visible and strong supporter of organizational change to embrace data, companies are 77% more likely to exceed business goals.
  • Most executives aren’t comfortable accessing or using data. A whopping 67% of senior managers or higher state they are uncomfortable accessing and using data.

The perspective of business analytics as an organizational priority is shifting, with it now being viewed with nearly equivalent importance to risk management and product/service innovation. Participants said the use of business analytics is increasing and is expected to become even more important over the next three years. Currently, analytics are often employed in strategic areas, including identifying business process improvements and understanding and improving customer experience.

How Organizations Become Insight-Driven

Insight-driven organizations result from the interaction of many factors, but Deloitte says there are three key components required for companies to most effectively use insights in business decisions. This “insights trifecta,” as the survey calls them, are data and tools, talent, and culture.

The foundation of an IDO is data and the tools necessary to manipulate it. Traditional spreadsheets and business intelligence tools are the most commonly used organizational tools. There are two general data categories — structured and unstructured — and the types of data analyzed impact outcomes. Structured data, information from mostly internal sources that can easily be put into formatted databases, is the most common type of data used among participants, with about 64% of companies using this.

Unstructured data — things like customer comments, photos, videos and emails — can be a valuable source of information, but is more difficult to corral since it tends not to fit neatly into a spreadsheet or database. Companies tend to shy away from using unstructured data, but when they do, it makes a difference. Survey participants reporting unstructured data as one of their most valuable sources were 24% more likely to exceed business goals.

The people analyzing the data make a difference too. Most companies use small teams composed of like individuals — 66% of those responding said. When companies create more diverse teams that in turn train other employees, their success rates increase. And if companies go all in, training the entire staff about how to apply analytics, 88% exceed their business goals. This is more than a 25% increase from companies using smaller, select teams.

Deloitte suggests that to overcome this “companies would do well to cultivate a wide variety of people throughout the organization who are curious, numerate and capable of translating between analytics/data science methods and business requirements. … This might be called the ‘democratization’ of data science.”

The Culture Shift

But there’s another problem: People are afraid of data. More than two-thirds of participants who are at least senior managers said they are not comfortable “accessing or using data from their tools and resources.”

So how do companies become successful insight-driven organizations? The most important, but incredibly confounding, thing to accomplish is a culture shift. In mature IDOs, nearly everyone understands and employs data when making decisions. There has to be a disposition toward, the survey says, making decisions, changing processes and adapting behaviors based on insight instead of intuition.

Companies with the strongest cultural bent toward using data to support decision-making were twice as likely in the past year to report exceeding business goals. While the evidence supporting the success of culture shifts is strong, companies still struggle making the change. So, companies that invest in technology and tools, but fail to change their cultures aren’t likely to succeed in effectively using big data.

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