B.I. Best When Company Rallies Around Core Metric: PwC

That cute little cartoon figure represents your company, anxious to find its way through a thicket of data.

The “third wave” of analytics is apparently upon the world, according to an extensive new report from professional-services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

That report describes the first wave of analytics as limited to “small groups of specialists” running the platforms for extracting the data. The second wave introduced some variations to that model, with spreadsheets and other applications somewhat democratizing the use (and, perhaps, the misuse) of data within organizations.

“In both waves, the challenge for centralized analytics was to respond to business needs when the business units themselves weren’t sure what findings they wanted or clues they were speaking,” the report adds.

The third wave centers on “decentralized analytics,” with analysis tools now in the hands of workers who can translate data findings into action. Tasks such as visualization, modeling and analysis have become easy enough to operate without extensive and highly specialized training. PwC “expects this trend to continue” into the future.

“One way to start with new analytics is to rally the workforce around a single core metric, especially when that core metric is informed by other metrics generated with the help of effective modeling,” the report suggests. “The core metric and the model that helps everyone understand it can steep the culture in the language, methods, and tools around the process of obtaining that goal.”

It eventually concludes with the suggestion that organizations “immerse” executives and workers in analytics tools and an inquiry-centric culture, with an emphasis on visual tools and self-serve analysis.

PwC’s conclusions certainly reflect a general trend in business-intelligence and analytics platforms, many of which aim to place B.I. tools into the hands of workers at more organizational levels. In turn, many of those tools visualize Big Data in ways meant to facilitate decision-making, with colorful charts and graphs. The growing interest in data analytics and B.I., in turn, has led to increasing competition between vendors such as SAP, Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft for new clients.

The PwC report seems largely optimistic about the effects of B.I. tools on the average organization’s competitive prospects. But as organizations store ever-increasing amounts of structured and unstructured data, including social-network feeds and customer-interaction logs, workers will need to wield these tools with care in order to extract actionable insights.

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