Organisations always have to deal with changing market conditions. This means developing deeper insights and answering the question: what are our best next steps?

A good starting point would be to address the enormity of available internal and external business data without becoming subsumed by its storage and management. Analytics are a good way to move from insights to outcomes. From so what? to now what?

Accenture research shows that successful businesses – Unilever and Tesco, for example – have a far higher analytical orientation than other companies. In fact, organisations like these are five times more likely to view analytical capabilities as core to the business.

However, our work with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) demonstrates that analytics is not the preserve of technology-driven multinationals. We used audience segmentation and analytics techniques to transform the RSC's approach to customer relationship management. As a direct result, its membership list was boosted by 40 per cent, while regular attendance surged by over 70 per cent.

There is vast potential for the scientific application of insight to drive increased performance. For example, organisations will be able to more accurately predict what customers will buy, the source of potential supply chain disruptions, or which employee will become a top performer. Every corner of the business stands to benefit.

It will be a challenging journey. Our research shows that almost 40 percent of executives believe their current technological resources and systems significantly impede the effective use of enterprise analytics.

Encouragingly, technology no longer lags aspirations in this area. Sophisticated analytics tools are available through best-of-breed providers or embedded in the latest ERP, financial and CRM software. Cloud computing has transformed the ways in which data can be stored and processed and open source software has democratised the analytics capabilities needed to drive insights from data.

Many companies already use analytics for functional point solutions. But few have taken this to the next level of competitive advantage by joining up these capabilities.

CIOs have a key role to play by enabling the cross-functional processes needed to embed analytics enterprise-wide. Once this is achieved, companies will be able to close the loop from insight generation, through insight validation, execution and value realisation to performance monitoring, metrics and governance.

This end-to-end methodology will let executives answer questions like why one product promotion failed, while another succeeded.

When an organisation is doing that routinely across the business, instantly benchmarking results with outcomes from competitor promotions, while simultaneously crowd-sourcing shifts in consumer sentiment, it will have a potent competitive advantage.

Companies that succeed in analytics do much more than just buy technology. They focus on making analytics integral to how their people at all levels in the organisation make decisions. Their IT organisations play a wider role in the business, taking time to understand what information is needed, before delivering the requisite capabilities. And they nurture analytical talent so that their investment in this vital resource translates into improved performance.

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