Are You Ready for an Analytics Revolution?

From Value to Vision: Reimagining the Possible with Data Analytics, a report published by MIT Sloan Management Review and the SAS Institute after a multiyear research initiative that included a survey of 2,500 business executives, managers, and analysts in 121 countries and over 30 industries, revealed signs that we are at the early point of an analytics revolution.

The report predicts that analytics, especially connected with big data, will be a driving force in our economy and society in the next 10 to 20 years. In this context analytics is being defined as the use of data and related business insights developed through applied analytical disciplines (e.g., statistical, predictive, cognitive, and other models) to drive fact-based planning, decisions, execution, management, measurement, and learning.

Describing the driving force of analytics as a “revolution” is unsettlingly if you use the word’s primary definition—a dramatic change in the way something works or in people’s opinions about the way something works. However, its secondary definition—the movement of one object around another or about an axis or center—provides a more accurate description.

Technologies such as Hadoop are making it easier than ever to quickly capture vast quantities of data from a variety of sources in numerous formats. While this data is big on theoretical business insights, analytics is needed to assess its practical business insights. Analytics unleashes the potential of data, revealing its insights. Revolution moves insights around the organization, putting decision makers in orbit around insights, making analytics the axis upon which the organization spins. That is what an analytics revolution actually is—an organization that revolves around analytics, an analytics-centered organization.

For such a revolution to be possible, an organization must have a data-oriented culture. The report defined this as a pattern of behaviors and practices by a group of people who share a belief that having, understanding, and using certain kinds of data and information plays a critical role in the success of their organization.

When the economist John Maynard Keynes was asked what he does when new data is presented that does not support his earlier decision, his response was: “I change my opinion. What do you do?” Whether you answer that question the same way says more about your readiness for an analytics revolution than would an assessment of your knowledge of analytical disciplines.

Reimagining the possible with data analytics requires imagining the possibility that data analytics will present evidence that you need to change your opinion. Some of your opinions may be based on long-held beliefs that served your organization well in the past and contribute to the comfortably motionless feeling of maintaining the status quo. But just as we feel motionless standing still while the Earth beneath our feet spins on its axis at 1,000 miles per hour and Earth maintains its orbit of the Sun by moving us through space at 67,00 miles per hour, the business world is always in motion.

An analytics-centered organization with a data-oriented culture is always moving through an analytics revolution, making it ready to be swayed by new evidence and willing to execute on actionable business insights.

This post is brought to you by SAS.