The Leaders Of Tomorrow Are Mastering Data Today


In the era of ‘big data,’ corporations are getting smarter about how they utilize data and analytics to create insights that further competitive advantage.

However, a paradox has emerged as companies are simultaneously encountering an increasingly complex marketplace, and at the same time coping with the practical realities of dwindling budgets and management expectations of doing more with less.  Further, ‘insight and analytic’ functions are still relatively immature compared to other corporate divisions such as manufacturing and operations, which means they often operate with a higher degree of waste and inefficiency.

Given the confluence of these elements, it’s of paramount importance that these insight and analytic functions quickly ‘grow up’ in order for them to meet their potential as the future stewards of corporate value creation.

In order for insight and analytic functions to effectively evolve, they often require a comprehensive overhaul on everything from how they are designed, how they focus their energies, the processes they use to uncover insights and how they engage with management to properly influence insight activation.  Insight and analytic functions have the opportunity to become as impactful as their brethren in other functional areas, and the good news is companies can enable this evolution by following a few key principles, grounded in both proven analytic technique and pragmatic operating rules.

How critical are analytics and insights to making my company successful?

Over the past two years, 4i, Inc. has conducted an extensive benchmarking study of over three dozen companies in multiple verticals to identify the critical pain points facing companies in how effectively they leverage their insight and analytic functions.

The findings have been astonishing.   We’ve determined that poor market performance is most often attributed to ineffective decision making (decision success rate is 35 percent) that is either not driven by actionable insight (insight activation is 38 percent) or based on insights that are not compelling (insight quality is 12 percent), and exacerbated by lack of, or ineffective, insight and analytic development process.  Furthermore, we determined that a 10 point change in insight quality will drive five percent increase in decision success translating into billions of incremental revenue opportunities for the companies profiled.

How are companies using analytics and insights today?

In our research we identified four types of ‘Insight & Analytics Functions’ on a continuum.  The majority of companies fall into one of the first two types, with types three and four being an eventual destination.  These include:


In order for companies to progress on this continuum, it is required they make specific changes to one or many elements of how they operate, including but not limited to changes in vision and value proposition,  addressing new issues and offering new services, developing new analytical capabilities and solutions, and altering organization, skill sets and processes.

How can I assess my company’s insight and analytic aptitude?

To identify the right areas for change, a company must diagnose where its pain points reside.  To do this in a standardized and effective manner, 4i, Inc. developed the Insight and Analytic Value Chain™ model grounded in Analytic IQ (AIQ) and Analytic Value (AIQ).

The Insight and Analytic Value Chain™ is designed to identify and isolate the critical components of corporate insight and analytic DNA.  Too many times corporations will focus on 1-2 of these areas without realizing they need to pay attention to the full spectrum, and will misdiagnose issues, which leads to ineffective corrective actions.


Based on where I am today, how can I improve?

After a company formally diagnoses its pain points through analytics, it can then develop a path forward to improve how it uses analytics and insights to drive decision making.  In our research, we identified five different types of companies, based on how effectively they manage insights and analytics versus their peers, and were then able to prescribe guiding principles they should follow to effectively move up the continuum.

  1.  “Rock Stars” (HIGH AIQ / HIGH AIV) should keep up the good work — identify new opportunity areas for higher AIV but ensure strong execution continues as well
  2. Middle Grounders” (MED AIQ / MED AIV) should seek new positioning vs. stakeholders, focus on strategic engagements, and communication with maximum activation and execution
  3. Puzzlers” (HIGH AIQ / LOW AIV) likely have shortfalls in activation driving lower AIV.  Develop stronger activation plans including gaining greater alignment internally to drive greater chance for success/greater insight value
  4. Cinderella” (LOW AIQ / HIGH AIV) companies should seek to improve activation first, with development and objective second to significantly increase AIQ which should generate even more value (AIV) and push a client to Rock Star quadrant.
  5. Stragglers” (LOW AIQ / LOW AIV) should seek to extract more value from existing work to raise AIV.  Assess process/protocols to drive better execution of Insight & Analytic Value Chain — especially in activation to drive higher value

Adopting and following the above principles is of critical importance to senior management because not only will they reap immediate tangible benefits (e.g. waste reduction, organizational efficiency gains, cost savings), but as collective corporate decision making becomes more influenced by data and analytical insights, those who properly design and deploy these functions today will be the market leaders tomorrow.

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