Saturday, August 14, 2010

Analytics at Work

Analytics has become a major driving force for competitive advantage in business. The new book "Analytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results" by Thomas H. Davenport, Jeanne G. Harris and Robert Morison discusses what analytics can do for a business, how to manage analytics and how to make a business more analytical.

Analytics at Work has a useful introductory chapter and then divides into two parts. The first part discusses five major aspects of analytics in a business environment. The second part looks at the lifecycle of managing analytics in a business. The organization is good and there is no overlap between the topics in each part, however the order in which the information is presented seems designed to put the reader off.

The first part starts with a plodding chapter on what needs to be done to get the data organized and related topics, followed by a diffuse chapter called Enterprise. The interesting chapters in this part are the last two chapters. The Targets chapter discusses the important topic of picking targets for analytics. The Analysts chapter discusses how to effectively employ and organize analysts in a large enterprise. Similarly the second part of the book starts with a plodding chapter on how to Embed Analytics in Business Processes, followed by much more inspiring chapters on building an analytical culture, and the need to continually review a business comprehensively as part of an analytics push. If you find yourself stuck reading the book, try skipping to one of the interesting chapters that I have indicated.

Scattered throughout the book are many useful tools. In the introductory chapter there are the six key questions that an analyst asks. We come back to these questions from several places in the book. Running throughout the book is a five step capability maturity model for judging how analytical an organizations is and showing the path to making the organization more analytical. Each chapter in the first part ends with a discussion on how to take that aspect of the organization through the five steps.

It is important to understand the target audience. The book is aimed at senior management and executives, particularly in large enterprises. While the book contains many brief case studies as inspiration and it touches on all the important management issues that need to be considered, it does not go into great depth about what analytics is or the specific analytical techniques and how they can be used. This is not a book for analysts, unless they have ambitions to grow their career beyond analytics. I recommend this book to anyone in the target audience who wants to grow their organizations analytics capabilities.

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