Too many organizations are missing opportunities to use their data and analytics as a competitive advantage. Often leaders believe that having an abundance of data, reports, and colorful charts is what it means to be data-driven. But gaining competitive advantage through your data and analytics involves making sure leaders have the information they need when they need it.

But it’s extremely common for people in an organization to become complacent with the information that’s always been available, instead of demanding the data that will serve them better. The idea of “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” is often evident in performance reporting … with too many indicators describing the same concept, while ignoring other critical parts of the organization.
Dropping the hammer
To get some “out of the box” thinking it may be helpful to do an assessment every so often to make sure that the data and information is actually generating meaningful value to the organization.

Here are four questions to consider:

1) Does the current analytics help your leaders make decisions?
And, does it support them in taking the right action? If not, why? Take a hard look at the data and information available to the users with respect to:

  • Timeliness: Is information provided in a timeframe where users are actually able to take action? Or is the information so far out of date by the time it’s reported, that it provides little value for performance management?
  • Trustworthiness: Are leaders having difficulty trusting the data, because of accuracy and reliability issues?
  • Relevance: Are leaders having difficulty in seeing the relevance of the existing data? For example, seeing your current performance relative to past levels, or relative to industry standards.
  • Understanding: Do leaders actually understand the data or metrics that are being reported? Do they know where the data comes from, and what it represents? Are some of your metrics needlessly complicated? Is the data presented and charted in an immediately intuitive and visual way? Is it clear who is responsible for what? As best as you can, figure out what do your leaders really should know before taking actions based on the data and analytics.

If you have any of these issues, you’ll need to resolve them if you want to increase the competitive value of your data and analytics

2) Do you have too many metrics?
What are the few metrics (3 to 5) that cover the majority of what’s important, to the majority of the people in your organization? For example, if you have 20 metrics then think about how you can group them into topics and create aggregate metrics (i.e. like a GPA summarizes a student’s letter-grade performance across courses). Reporting dozens of metrics is easy, but not very actionable, because at most times some metrics will look good and some metrics will look bad. Slimming them down to the few metrics is a tough job, but when done right, it can be an incredibly powerful tool for communicating through the organization “what good performance looks like”.

3) What do your leaders want?
What would help them do their job better? Carry out working sessions with your leaders to figure out what the ideal data and analytics would look like, and more importantly, have them describe the actions they would take with this information. Ask them to think outside the box, and not restrict themselves to the data that they’ve seen before. Then ask your leaders to set priorities using the question: If you had to choose one metric, what would it be? If you’re doing this as a group working session, you will generate a lot of informative discussion, and a decent group of new metrics.

4) What is the ROI on the right metrics?
On your top-ranked metric for new data (i.e. data you currently don’t collect or have available), do a cost-benefit analysis. How much is it worth to your organization to have this information? Taking this approach can reveal opportunities to make a strategic investment in order to gain a competitive advantage. See Tip 3 from How to Get the Data You Need for more details.


If done right, this exercise will generate a burning need to make the investments to help leaders have the information they need, when they need it. And in doing so, empowering them to take meaningful actions based on truly relevant data and analytics. Translating analysis into action will create a competitive advantage for your whole organization.