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Got analytics? Who will promote the industry?

Business people have everything. They’ve got data, and often it’s clean. They’ve got tools, and many are easy to use. They’ve got visualizations, many of which help. They’ve got domain knowledge, at least most do. What some front line observers find they lack is analytical thinking.

Given descriptive data, few business users that BI icon Claudia Imhoff sees ask even the simplest followup questions, like “why?” Is what the data shows good for the business or not? If not, what can be done?

Claudia, along with IBM marketing director Harriet Fryman, raised the question this summer at the Pacific Northwest BI Summit. This week I caught up with Claudia on the phone.

“The big elephant in the room is that they [business people] don’t know what analytics is,” she said.

What will it take to solve that? Education, of course. But by whom?, I asked. Some education takes place within some organizations, but the quality and reach varies. Isn’t a broad, industry-wide program necessary? Doesn’t the industry need the equivalent of a “Got milk?” campaign?

You may remember the ads. To a variety of problems, milk was always the answer. The “Got data?” campaign would promote analytical thinking.

“I like that idea!” she joked. But really, perhaps analytics itself could use a boost.

The big question is who can do it? As Claudia pointed out, we should count on no help from tool makers. The only answer they know is that you’re not trained on their interface.

“This isn’t a technical problem,” Claudia said, “It’s a business problem.”

Assuming her premise of analytical disinclination is valid — I can think of one BI anti-icon who would disagree — the ideal organization to lead such education and advocacy would have several characteristics: First, it would be well known already within the industry for training. Second, it would have relationships with vendors eager to support research. Third, it would have relationships with industry experts, both technical and business.

Will anyone step up?

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