Where do you stand? Part 1 of An Incrementalist’s Guide to Better BI

A while back, we got all over Thomas Davenport for his checklist of ways to tell if your organization is an "Analytics Competitor." To me, he had posed the wrong question. It asks too much and reveals too little.

I don’t need to know, for example, if I can chip like Phil Mickelson and finish off a tournament like Tiger Woods. I just want to be a decent golfer who isn’t embarrassed during a corporate outing. Organizations don’t need to know if they can go head-to-head with Harrah’s (the new popular case study, displacing Capital One); they just want to be smarter about their decision-making using the data they have.

Creating a useful analytics capability requires a number of pieces to come together. Here’s our take on the important things to evaluate as you consider: Where do I stand with my analytics and how can I get better?


  • For each business function or line, how will analytics impact decisions?
  • What decisions will not be impacted?

People and tools

  • Do I have people who understand the dynamics of the business (i.e. can pull their head of the data and see the context for an analysis)?
  • Do I have people who are skilled in basic analysis approaches and tools? (e.g. PivotTables, simple modeling, basic statistics)
  • Do I have people who can effectively communicate the results of their work through simple, attractive data presentation?
  • Are there analyses or reports that I cannot accomplish with my current toolset because the data sets are too large or the statistical requirements to heavy?


  • Do I have a process for working with the business lines and functions to understand their needs?
  • Do I have a process for defining, developing, producing, and delivering reports?
  • Do I have a process for managing the ever-expanding queue of requests?
  • Do I have templates for data presentation, reports, common analyses, models, etc. that will make my work more repeatable and efficient?

Raw materials

  • Do I have a low-friction means to access the data that is the raw materials for my work?
  • Do I understand the issues and intricacies of my organization’s data? Have I documented it?

Integrate into business

  • Have I proven the value of analytics through visible “wins", i.e. real, live (and successful) cases where reporting and analysis is driving business decisions?
  • Have I achieved a seat at the table, i.e. genuine involvement in decision-making process?