Executive Demand for Data Analysis Grows

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More CEOs are looking to customer data as a key driver of revenue growth, but their success will require a plan of action that incorporates IT and line-of-business professionals. This was a prevailing theme at the Gartner Business Intelligence and Analytics Summit 2013 in Dallas in late March.

Additionally, executives are shifting their IT investments. During a presentation at the event, Ken McGee, vice president and research fellow at Gartner, stated, "The back office has been a big black hole of gravitational pull for IT spending."

However, more senior executives have expressed a desire for technologies that solve front-office (sales, marketing, and customer service) issues. More specifically, they're interested in front-office analytics.

According to the most recent Gartner CEO and Senior Executive Survey, 71 percent of the 390 CEOs surveyed say business analytics will be their top technology investment priority this year, followed by enhanced business reporting, at 56 percent.

To do this, the survey indicated that executives are willing to realign roles in the enterprise to account for new skillsets required.

More than half of senior executives report having some form of digital strategy in place, McGee said, noting that many will likely bring in new leadership talent with both business and technical know-how.

According to the Gartner survey, 19 percent of business leaders expect to employ a chief digital officer by 2014, while 17 percent plan to hire a chief data officer. But for these newly created positions to be successful, information and analytics cannot be siloed.

"What we have seen is if the business user is not on board, and it is an IT play only, it is doomed for failure," comments George Philip, vice president and global practice head of analytics and information management at Mindtree, in an interview with CRM. This has stirred many organizations to augment roles beyond the standard chief information officer or head of IT to assign business value to analytical data.

"You see a lot of cross-pollination happening, where chief data officers [are moving from] unrelated areas like retail analytics to financial analytics," Philip adds. For instance, insurance company AIG brought on a chief data officer who was a former head of Citibank analytics. Similarly, financial services institution Banco Popular hired an analytics executive who made a transition from big-box retailer Walmart. This shift is happening mainly because companies are looking to diversify leadership backgrounds and reframe analytics as a tool and strategy to change the way they do business with their customers, Philip says.

However, the fact remains that analytics are still largely "quantitative," says Ian Bertram, global manager of the Analytics and Business Intelligence Research team at Gartner. "You want to give decision makers context to their decisions," such as providing retailers a way to combine video data with sales transactions and product SKU information. With advanced analytics, companies will begin to measure metrics that help them determine next-best actions and to answer the question "What should I do next in my business?"

To meet this demand, vendors are creating analytics solutions designed for the business user. For example, Scout Analytics launched the Scout Usage Data Hub to put quick-start predictive analytics into the hands of sales, marketing, and customer success teams. "The point was to make analytics operational," comments Matt Shanahan, senior vice president of strategy at Scout Analytics. Companies have to ensure that "on a daily basis, [their sales team] knows where to spend their time so they can get optimal revenue and drive top-line and bottom-line [growth]."

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