Many companies have invested in a top-tier analytics solution by now. Their aspirations for the technology are lofty. Some expect to open new revenue streams. Others are out to improve customer experiences. But the data suggests a significant gap between these aspirations and the reality. Often, two of the obstacles that keep organizations from realizing the full benefits of their investment are a lack of skilled users and a lack of access.
But just naming the problem won’t solve it. So we asked some Sisense leaders: Why is there so often a shortfall between companies’ aspirations and the reality of what they’re getting out of their analytics solutions? Here’s what we found.
Defining the skills and accessibility gap
According to the research, the majority of companies acknowledge the strategic importance of data analytics, but they aren’t making analytics widely accessible or easy to use for their workers. In fact, within most organizations, there’s a gaping expanse between analytics capabilities and having the skills to use them.
61% of respondents say lack of skills/training is the biggest barrier to improving their organization’s use of analyzed data.Harvard Business Review Analytics Services Pulse Report for Sisense, March 2021
This lack of skill and training is particularly chronic among business executives. The knowledge and ability to handle data is typically siloed with an organization’s data scientists, and the process of crunching and analyzing data is often considered separate from a company’s main business. Executives themselves often receive little or no training about data and analytics. In order to access intelligence and insights from their data, they step outside their usual daily workflows, calling on data scientists to bring them the insights they think they need.
This process is unwieldy and time-consuming at best; at worst executives actively avoid it because it’s so time and resource intensive.
57% say non-IT/data analyst employees are occasionally, rarely, or never able to quickly access the data they need.Harvard Business Review Analytics Services Pulse Report for Sisense, March 2021
If business executives and line-of-business leaders don’t understand (or, again, avoid) data and analytics, then they neglect valuable intelligence that could give their company a competitive advantage. They never see the insights that could spark beneficial strategic change; they can’t lead the way in building a data-driven analytics culture that will safeguard the future of their business.
Why data visualization only goes so far in solving the problem
In the data and analytics business, great strides have been made to democratize access to data with better and easier-to-use data visualization technology. It’s logical that if data is easier to access, and if it’s easier to view and understand in clear visualizations, then it should be easier to derive usable insights from it and to adopt a data-driven approach. Nevertheless, HBR’s research shows that, despite these efforts, a considerable skills gap persists. For many organizations, it seems impossible to train the workforce out of the skills gap that holds the company back from being truly data-driven.
69% of non-IT/data team employees must leave their existing workflow to get the data they want. 51% must use a separate tool or dashboard to do so.Harvard Business Review Analytics Services Pulse Report for Sisense, March 2021
This is a huge impediment, and overcoming it requires a process change: Only the right analytics technology, seamlessly infused into user workflows, will bridge not only the skills gap, but the gap between insights and actions.
How the right analytics platform helps companies get what they want from their data
If adoption and use of analytics are proving to be stumbling blocks, then it’s imperative to make connecting data and analytics as simple, easily accessible, and usable as possible.
One of the best ways to achieve this is to make analytics available to everyone within their normal workflow processes, rather than requiring them to stop what they’re doing and switch to a separate piece of software to seek what they need. The right analytics tool should support all skill levels and bring intelligence to the people — wherever they work. It shouldn’t force you to learn a new skill. In fact, it should help you along the way to build your skills without even knowing it.
This removes a burden on any organization and its people. As Scott Castle, Sisense VP and General Manager, Internal Analytics Products, points out, “The right analytics platform takes the overhead out of tasks and lowers the skill level required to get to the answers for day-to-day questions, so instead you spend resources primarily on moving the business forward.”
Doing so optimizes the time to value, which Charles Holive, Sisense Chief Monetization Strategist, highlighted as the most important KPI. This can be achieved by maximizing accessibility and adoption.
“The right analytics platform requires ease of use for mass distribution,” Charles says. “The ability to infuse analytics within the workflow to increase adoption and outcome consistency, but also ease-of-build … to democratize who can build and have a low dependency on where and how distributed the data might be.”
Guy Levy-Yurista, Sisense Chief Strategy Officer, says it’s vital for C-suite leadership to be able to easily see and understand the benefits of an analytics platform, the value one can add, and how they can use one to successfully drive a cohesive strategy for the organization. He emphasizes the importance of simplicity, agility, and flexibility in an analytics system to help organizations get what they want from their data.
“The right platform must handle data complexity in a way that’s accessible and simple. It also needs to be broad and agile enough to grow with your organization’s strategy. For example, as organizations increasingly move their data to the cloud, a cloud-native architecture must form the linchpin of a robust data strategy, without ignoring the fact that there may be local, on-premises data sources that remain important to the organization, and that must be addressed with a hybrid approach that handles both.”Guy Levy-Yurista, Sisense Chief Strategy Officer
How infused analytics bridges the skills gap
The way we work and interact evolves rapidly. The speed at which we expect to gain insights and put them into action continues to accelerate. For organizations of all kinds, it’s a case of adapt, innovate, or fail.
There just aren’t enough data scientists and analytics specialists to satisfy all the requests for data and analysis from their organizations. If the correct data is there at all, people often have to upskill and step out of their natural workflow to retrieve and analyze the data. Understandably, it’s something that many people are reluctant to do. That impedes adoption.
It stands to reason that if current analytics systems are proving to be hard to adopt and unwieldy, then a new approach is necessary: an approach that dovetails more naturally and far less disruptively with the way people work. And that new approach is infused analytics.
The infused analytics approach enables an intuitive and natural way of working with data that obviates the need for technical skills.
“Not every employee needs to learn to use data tools,” Scott says. “It’s not an efficient use of the skills on your team. Instead, use data professionals to collect and mine insights and deliver those insights into the hands of your skilled sales, marketing, product, and finance pros — right when they need them — in order to maximize the impact of data in your organization.”
Adam Murray began his career in corporate communications and PR in London and New York before moving to Tel Aviv. He’s spent the last ten years working with tech companies like Amdocs, Gilat Satellite Systems, and Allot Communications. He holds a Ph.D. in English Literature. When he’s not spending time with his wife and son, he’s preoccupied with his beloved football team, Tottenham Hotspur.