In new research released today, managers surveyed report that an analytics culture is the driving factor in achieving competitive advantage from data and analytics, more important than any of the other capabilities measured in the study.

The report, “The Analytics Mandate,” based on results from a global survey of more than 2,000 business executives and personal interviews with over 30 senior managers, also finds that companies must continuously innovate with analytics to maintain the edge it affords.

“We found that in companies with a strong analytics culture, decision-making norms include the use of analytics, even if the results challenge views held by senior management,” said David Kiron, executive editor for MIT Sloan Management Review. “This differentiates those companies from others, where often management experience overrides insights from data.”

The research also indicates that those with a top-down mandate for fact-driven decision making are experiencing gains with analytics to a greater extent than other organisations.

For example, at a large Boston-based bank’s exchange division every level of the team works to field, analyse and act on the results of quarterly surveys they send to various groups. Executive support, leading by example and evangelising “a lot of little wins” helps to both push and pull employees towards an analytics culture.

This study, now in its fourth year, suggests that analytics is no longer a new path to value; it’s a common one. Access to useful information continues to increase, and the vast majority of respondents are investing in their analytical capabilities to leverage their data.

As the use of analytics becomes mainstream, organisations have to do more to stay ahead of the curve. The survey participants recognise this. Nine in ten believe their organisations need to step up their use of analytics. This is true even among those who report having a competitive advantage.”

The study recommends that companies seeking a competitive edge with analytics ask (and answer) these five key questions about their organisation’s culture:

  • Is my organisation open to new ideas that challenge current practice?
  • Does my organisation view data as a core asset?
  • Is management driving the organisation to become more data driven and analytical?
  • Is my organisation using analytical insights to guide strategy?
  • Are we willing to let analytics help change the way we do business?