Guest Post By: Rebecca Shockley, Business Analytics & Optimization Global Lead, IBM Institute for Business Value
In many organizations, there is a misconception that simply having the right data in the hands of the right people using the right tools is enough to create a competitive and performance advantage. It is true that having a strong information foundation and a core discipline of analytics skills are essential for organizations to successfully adopt analytics. Yet, a critical piece of the analytics puzzle is often missing from this equation: organizational culture.
Cultivating a data-oriented culture is perhaps the least considered but most difficult of the three analytic competencies IBM and MIT Sloan Management Review identified in a new research study, Analytics: The widening divide.
The need to develop proficiency in information management and in analytics skills and tools – the other two analytics competencies — is intuitive: many business leaders believe analytics is all about the artful combination of data and mathematical analysis. Yet, analytical insights can only create an impact when they are put into action – and it is the culture of an organization that dictates whether those insights are acted upon or not.
Why is creating a data-oriented culture so difficult for many organizations? For one, it involves changing the way people think, act and interact at work. Changing the behaviors and norms of an organization is significantly harder than changing the tools or adding new skills – a lesson that is being learned on the frontlines of business intelligence efforts around the globe. Almost half (44%) of the 4,500 respondents surveyed in the study said the organizational challenges involved with effectively implementing analytics were extremely difficult to resolve; that’s twice as many who said technology challenges were extremely difficult.
One critical component of a data-oriented culture that stands out in both its force in changing behavior and in its elusiveness for many organizations is establishing a culture open to new ideas. Data, and the resulting analytic insights it provides, provoke new ways of thinking about what works and what doesn’t within a business. This more often than not disrupts the status quo.
While analytic insights can deliver value to decision makers by validating the current course of action, the ability to uncover undetected patterns in the data and to expedite decision making based on new insights is what creates the competitive advantage that organizations need in today’s marketplace. Acting on these insights quickly is how aggressive adopters of analytics are achieving competitive and performance gains within their markets, and that agility requires a willingness to change directions; it requires a culture open to new ideas.
A corporate culture that is open to new ideas is one that defies experience, intuition and accumulated organizational wisdom – an unsettling prospect for business leaders whose careers have been founded and propelled by those very things. Letting go of how things have always been done, or what has always worked, is not something organizations do easily, and rarely do organically. To get there, it takes a clear vision, boldness and leadership.
You can read more about the study and how analytically sophisticated organization are creating a data-oriented culture at www.ibm.com/thewideningdivide.