Competing on Analytics – getting started

by Justin Souter on December 7, 2011


Tom DavenportFollowing on from my recent posts about a) the IBM CMO study, and b) the McKinsey Quarterly articles on big data, I was reminded of a podcast (reproduced below) I’d listened to several months ago, which featured Tom Davenport – pictured right.

That listening sparked me to look into more of Tom’s recent work.The aim of posting is to bring together related materials that Tom has created, and thus equip those managing such programmes to maximise their chances of success.

There’s plenty of material to showcase, so I’ve split it between two posts.


I’ve done some investigating, and this post is aimed to frame the ‘how to’ question in more detail. I’ve named the post after Tom’s January 2006 article in Harvard Business Review.

I realise that for most businesses, this is pretty ambitious and far-reaching stuff. Most will be keen to sort out what systems and data they’ve got already. For organisations (business, sports, etc.) that are already on this path, I believe there are useful guidelines in Tom’s material, and they’re worthwhile reading to increase the likelihood of success in this emerging area of competition.

Competing on Analytics

This is Tom’s original article from HBR, which was expanded into Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning. Key points are:

  • Champion Analytics from the Top
  • Create a Single Analytics Initiative
  • Focus Your Analytics Effort
  • Establish an Analytics Culture
  • Hire the Right People
  • Use the Right Technology

HBR Competing on Analytics R0601Hp2

Analytics at Work

A more recent book, Analytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results, aims to provide practical how-to useful information to business managers. This section contains a summary of the book, a podcast interview with Tom Davenport, a hierarchy of maturity for organisations pursuing greater success through analytics.The pyramid shown below, along with a useful matrix to understand what progress you’re making.

Book summary

Analytics at Work – how to make better decision and get better results

HBR IdeaCast podcast

For you fans of audio out there (I’m one), I hope you enjoy this interview.

Better Decisions Through Analytics – “Featured Guest: Tom Davenport, Babson College professor and coauthor of Analytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results.”

Download this MP3 – (Right Click)

Stages of development

The graphic below is taken from an Accenture article, “Winning with Analytics” by Jeanne G. Harris, one of Tom Davenport’s book co-authors. Cross-check with the table at the back of the embedded article above, in this section.

Initial wash-up

A key point to bear in mind is to always sense-check what the stats appear to be telling you. This BBC Radio review of Moneyball, and this comment about stats in football, provide useful balance to the narrative.

I’d love to get comments, and get other people’s take on this – please pitch in below. Second and final post is scheduled to go live tomorrow.

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