“A tree is known by its fruit.” Or, in the world of data and analytics, the ultimate measure of being insights-driven is not about the data or the insight but about their impact. What does it take to produce fruit or deliver impact from data and insights?

Organizations have been delivering insights for years. Data and analytics are not new. Yet, according to Forrester research,1 only half of decisions made are based on quantitative information as opposed to instinct, experience, or opinion. Are decisions still influenced by the HiPPO in the room? Yes, that’s likely. But that’s not for lack of data or insights. 

Most organizations are not yet insights-driven. According to Forrester’s insights-driven maturity model fewer than 10% of firms are truly insights-driven.2 At first blush, that seems surprisingly low, particularly for those of us immersed in data and analytics. Why aren’t more organizations delivering insights into the decision-making process? And, why aren’t they able to deliver better business outcomes? Well, the crux of the matter lies in the fact that people drive the business and they must be aligned to ensure impact. 

Many organizations have data, build dashboards, and deliver the dashboards to decision-makers. Yet, they are unable to make that leap from dashboards to decision-making. We’ve all seen complex dashboards that are impossible to navigate, let alone understand what they mean and what to do about it. And, even if decisions are made, many organizations don’t link the business impact to the insights delivered. They struggle going from insights to impact. 

How Can Companies Organize to Accelerate Insights to Impact? 

The ability to execute on the insights-to-impact promise lies in the iterative process of delivering insight, measuring the outcomes, and learning from the results in a continuous learning loop. For example, we capture data on how customers respond to offers and learn which resonate best. Then, new campaigns hone in on those preferences. However, the ability to do that doesn’t come easily. The key to building an insights-driven organization and a culture of iterative learning lies in the three Cs: 

  1. CDO: Chief Data Officer (or the equivalent)
  2. CoE: Center of Excellence
  3. CoI: Communities of Interest

What links these three are people. It’s the people within the organization who deliver on the promise of being insights-driven. 

The CDO. The Chief Data Officer should establish leadership and reflect the executive mandate for change. In the early days, CDOs were appointed to address data security and compliance concerns. No CEO wanted to find their brand on the cover of the newspaper, a phenomenon that became increasingly common after what’s been referred to as the big bang of data breaches in 2005. However, over the years the role has evolved to one that is more strategic and proactive, driving business value. CDOs haven’t turned away from security. Instead the role has expanded and security is seen as a means to an end. The data must be secure and trusted to deliver business value. And, the CDO’s new mandate is to deliver business value.

But a leader doesn’t do it alone. Islam Zekry, CDO of CIB Egypt, astutely put it, the role looks a lot like a Chief Diplomacy Officer working closely with stakeholders across the organization to build consensus and develop a broader insights culture. 

The CoE. To support the insights-to-impact goal, a successful CDO builds out a core team—a center of excellence (CoE)—with members either reporting directly to the CDO or via a dotted line to ensure coordination. CoEs are not one-size-fits-all but tend to reflect the needs of the organization. Some CoEs act as service bureaus providing data and analytics expertise to both business units and function teams, and sometimes even to partners and customers. For example, the Lloyd’s of London Data Lab serves both internal and external customers. At a minimum, most CoEs coordinate data governance policies and the allocation of resources across the organization. 

The CoI. Communities of interest (CoIs) can take on a variety of forms, depending on the needs of the organization. The former CDO of Seattle Children’s Hospital emphasized the need to build out broader support for data and analytics.3 He identified what he called “friends of data and analytics” or FDAs, people across the hospital who were statistically minded and interested in how to better leverage data. These “friends” acted as evangelists spreading the word about the value to the organization. At Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, the data team trained practitioners to help identify new use cases. And, interest is not in short supply. At John Deere Financial, the data team offered webinars on “What Is a Data Scientist?” There was so much interest they had to upgrade their conference lines to accommodate listeners. 

Organizations that want to be insights-driven must develop a strategy to get there. And, the cornerstone supporting that strategy is people. It takes leadership, competencies, and a broader community to drive an insights-driven culture. 

Each of these topics will be explored in more detail in subsequent blog posts. Stay tuned.