Here at Sisense, we always say that we’re living in a data-driven world, so it’s no surprise to find interesting news and views about the world of data and analytics. This Month in Embedded Analytics gives you our take on what’s caught our eye over the past few weeks.
COVID-19 has forever altered the way we live and work. May saw the start of a new phase in how the world addresses this global pandemic. While tragedy ravages India and much of the global south struggles to cope, some countries are beginning to come out of crisis mode.
There’s a cautious return to the workplace, with safeguards in place, for those of us craving a change of scene from working at home. But just how much has the pandemic impacted on businesses, projects, and budgets, and how is analytics playing a part in shaping the way we work in a COVID-altered world?
The analysts at Dresner have published a timely advisory report about this. It’s a real validation of the value of infusing analytics everywhere and a satisfying reminder of why we do what we do here at Sisense. Let’s take a look at their findings.
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BI and analytics help firms bounce back
Businesses have suffered in the pandemic, but a good dose of BI and analytics is proven to speed up recovery.
Unsurprisingly, COVID hit businesses hard, with most reporting loss of revenue, customers, or both during 2020. For instance, 67% of survey respondents reported COVID-related losses in Q2 2020, according to the “First 2021 Dresner Advisory Update on COVID-19 Impacts to Businesses, Projects, and Budgets.” By Q4, this figure had dipped to 54% — still high, but going in the right direction.
The largest firms (10,000-plus employees) initially suffered slightly less severe losses (49%) in 2020 compared to small and medium-sized firms (which took hits to the tune of 54% and 55%, respectively). By Q4 2020, a reversal had begun, with the smallest organizations reporting the lowest levels of revenue and customer losses. Dresner infers from this that speed and flexibility, rather than size and scale, have helped organizations rebound better after initial operating adjustments.
One of the key ways businesses mitigated the impact of COVID was with BI and analytics: According to Dresner, organizations that consider their BI to be successful and well-managed continue to report much lower rates of customer and revenue losses due to COVID-19 (as much as 25% lower).
The conclusion to draw here is that better, data-driven decision-making facilitated by analytics can help companies avoid risk and thrive, even in difficult conditions. By Q1 2021, 53% of respondents said they consider BI and analytics to be more important than they did prior to the pandemic.
“Even in the face of potential tremendous business challenges associated with COVID-19, we continue to recommend investing more in BI and analytics,” writes Brian Lett, Research Director, Dresner Advisory Services. “Now more than ever, making better-informed data-driven decisions is paramount, and more and better use and management of BI and analytics is critical to making that a reality.”
Research also shows that increasing BI budgets correlates strongly to the success of such projects, while cutting a BI budget doubles the risk of failure and reduces the chance of a completely successful BI initiative by 50%.
“Now more than ever, making better-informed data-driven decisions is paramount, and more and better use and management of BI and analytics is critical to making that a reality.”Brian Lett, Research Director, Dresner Advisory Services
The top three factors that bring success with analytics
Commitment, culture, and transparency are vital.
When investigating an analytics platform, prospects and customers often seek assurance that the ROI on analytics will make the spend worthwhile; that’s a natural concern.
That’s what makes this other recent study published by Dresner, focused on BI user and practitioner governance, so interesting, because one of the most important takeaways is related to the effectiveness of BI and analytics.
For years, organizations of all kinds have professed a desire to become data-driven at all levels, from the C-suite to the front lines. Infusing analytics everywhere — democratizing access to intelligence by embedding actionable intelligence anywhere — can make analytics a natural part of what you do.
However, in order for this to be effective, an organization’s leadership must be fully committed to data-driven practices, a culture that nurtures the use of analytics must be encouraged, and transparency of intelligence and data must be considered vital. Dresner’s findings bear this out.
In this survey, 72% of respondents said that support from senior management or other BI champions is critical for the success of BI and analytics within their organizations. This was considered by far the leading contributor to such success. Behind that, 59% highlighted the importance of a culture that understands and values fact-based decision-making, and 58% said that good communication and collaboration is essential between those developing and supporting the BI solution and those using it.
The other significant finding is that data literacy is a significant factor in promoting a data-driven culture. Building a data-literacy program to reinforce such skills is an important ingredient in creating an analytics-driven environment.
How data-driven analytics shows how violent we are
This one’s a curiosity, but it’s a fascinating example of an unexpected way that data and analytics can be used.
A two-part documentary titled “The Violence Paradox” (aired on PBS in North America and BBC Four in the U.K.) interrogates the notion that we may be living in one of the most peaceful periods of human history, despite the proliferation of news about wars, shootings, human rights abuses, and more.
The film discusses the work of Tim Hitchcock, a historian from the University of Sussex in the U.K.; Simon DeDeo, Assistant Professor in Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute; and Sara Klingenstein from the Department of Informatics at Indiana University.
Hitchcock led the digitization of the entire record of court proceedings that took place at the Old Bailey in London (The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales) from 1674 to 1913. DeDeo and Klingenstein then examined the 112,485 trial records, encompassing more than 20 million words of spoken testimony recorded between 1760 and 1913. That’s a huge dataset.
They quantitatively analyzed the language of legal proceedings to demonstrate how the limits of acceptable behavior have shifted, by using a lexical analysis to distinguish between violent and nonviolent acts. They grouped together words that had similar meanings, in line with the 1,040 classes of words established by the lexicographer Peter Mark Roget in the 1911 edition of his thesaurus.
Feeding the data gleaned from their analysis into the Jensen-Shannon Divergence, a measurement that gauges the similarity between different distributions of probability, the academics observed that at the end of the 18th century, the language used in trials for violent and nonviolent crime was very similar. Use of words such as “blood” or “knife” was as likely to take place in a trial for a theft as it was in a trial for murder. From this observation, they established a higher incidence of everyday violence during this period. Over the next 150 years, the language to describe crimes appeared to change. By the start of the 20th century, there was an increasing separation of language describing violent and nonviolent offenses, and a larger distinction between the two kinds of crime. They conclude that this suggests a decreasing tolerance of milder forms of violence in more modern society.
This may seem to be an arcane example of using data. But it’s a pretty spellbinding story of how powerful analytics can be applied to huge, complex datasets of difficult-to-analyze, natural language data to reveal some truly shocking insights. Whether you’re building the next top-tier app, improving in-house workflows, or creating a thought-provoking documentary, infusing analytics and data is becoming the key to setting your company or product apart from the rest. Data is transforming the world, from apps to entertainment; embrace it!
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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.