Although we’ve now got the capabilities to analyse increasing amounts of data faster with appliances such as SAP HANA, research sponsored by SAP suggests that companies face big challenges in the maximum benefit unless they invest in their employees; that is invest both side of IT – Intelligence and Technology.
The research, reported in the April edition of Havard Business Review, evaluated 5,000 employees at 22 global companies and sorted them into three groups. “Unquestioning empiricists” who trust analysis over judgment, “visceral decision makers” who go exclusively with their gut feelings and “Informed skeptics”— the employees best equipped to make good decisions—who effectively balance judgment and analysis, possess strong analytic skills, and listen to others’ opinions but are willing to dissent.
The latter are clearly the ones you want as they typically perform 24% better than others on a wide range of metrics including effectiveness, productivity and employee engagement. However, the research found that only 38% of employees and 50% of senior managers fall into this group.
The main issues uncovered by the researchers was that analytic skills are typically concentrated in too few employees and that whenever a new form of analytics enters the workplace, companies start by hiring experts versed in using it, reasoning that the skills will trickle down to all. But too many companies are stuck in the “expert” phase with a handful of highly skilled analytics professionals but have not begun to train everyone else to make use of their analytics methodology. Guess the message is watch out with Big Data or you could sell yourself seriously short!
They also point out that IT departments are not so good at catering for the needs of departments with diverse data demands that they sometimes can’t clearly articulate and that much corporate data is hard to locate because it is not organized in a coherent and accessible structure. They compare it to a library there is no catalogue and no covers on the books. So what to do about it? They recommend:
Train and coach workers to improve their data literacy and to encourage them to make better use of data when making decisions, questioning its accuracy and provenance
Give staff easy-to-use tools to gain insight from data, e.g., those such as SAP BusinessObjects BI suite, which hardly need an expert analyst to get involved. The best companies were benefiting from doing just that with more of their people having access to improved information filtering and better visualization. The writers also recommend limiting the number of BI tools in use so that employees have a chance at becoming competent with those on the corporate shortlist – i.e., ‘BI standardization’.
All sounds like good sense to me. You can read the paper here.