Why Analytics Today Are More Democratic

It's no longer 1995.
Mar | 14 | 2017

Mar | 14 | 2017


In my last post, I discussed the need for IT departments to meet their constituents’ needs. If they cannot, then it’s reasonable to expect their lines of business to go elsewhere.

Let’s say, though, that IT has adequately met the analytics and technology needs of each organization’s different departments. In this context, where should the responsibility for analytics lay? That is the subject of today’s post.

A Little History Lesson

Throughout the 80s and 90s, organizations spent hundreds of billions of dollars deploying enterprise technologies. They purchased massive ERP and CRM systems. These typically linked to relational databases built to get data in—not out. (This is not a trivial distinction.)

One by one, these organizations redesigned their manual business processes for this new and digital world. As I write in Why New Systems Fail, IT played a key role in building, configuring, supporting, and often customizing these massive systems.

Make no mistake: This role was critical. Your average recruiter or AP clerk didn’t possess anywhere near the programming chops to deploy these applications—and there was really no need. When most business users needed to obtain information from the new enterprise system, they did of the following:

  1. Ran a standard report
  2. Created an ad-hoc report
  3. Asked IT to provide the information to them in a usable format (typically a CSV)
  4. Accessed some type of business-intelligence tool or separate reporting database

To the extent that relatively few technically inclined “analysts” could understand ERDs and write complicated SQL statements, IT historically needed to be involved in just about all involved “analytics projects” by definition.

Analytics is no longer the sole province of IT.

Fast forward to today. While the above scenario continues to exist in countless large organizations, IT’s role as central information gatekeeper and provider is no longer unquestioned, but don’t take my word for it. Echoing the same sentiment, Chris Nerney writes that “analytics is no longer the sole province of IT.” No argument here. In fact, I’d argue that today IT shouldn’t be remotely responsible for analytics. Analytics today can be more democratic for several reasons.

First, few and powerful tools make it easier than ever to gather data, analyze it, and—most critically—act upon it. What’s more, much of the data of interest to business users doesn’t even exist within an organization’s walls. (Data “born” on Twitter doesn’t live in those same enterprise systems.) Finally, IT has its hands full with more critical priorities than end-user handholding—e.g., dealing with BYOD, securing the perimeter, and warding off increasingly sophisticated hackers.

Simon Says: With respect to analytics, it’s a new, more democratic world.

What is your organization doing about it?

IBM paid me to write this post, but the opinions in it are mine.

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