Q & A with Forrester VP Boris Evelson on Insights-driven Businesses | MicroStrategy
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Q & A with Forrester VP Boris Evelson on Insights-driven Businesses

MicroStrategy recently hosted a global webcast where more than 1500 analytics and business professionals registered to hear the guest speaker, Forrester VP and Principal Analyst Boris Evelson, advise on how to use insights-driven business capabilities to help manage one of the only constants in the modern world—change.

Check out the Q&A interview with Boris below to learn how Forrester defines insights-driven businesses, their differentiating capabilities, and the competitive advantage they're gaining. Then, watch the on-demand webcast for a deep dive on benchmarking your organization and insights on how adaptive enterprises are quickly responding to the changes created by COVID-19.

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Question: What is the difference between a data-driven and insights-driven business?

Answer: Most enterprises have already begun their journey to become data-driven. They manage to transform at least some of their transactional and other operational data into signals, and base at least some of the key operational, tactical, strategic decisions based on such signals. But getting signals from data, is where many such efforts and benefits end.

The next level of maturity—what Forrester calls insights-driven business (IDB) transformation, is the ability to transform enterprise data into insights, which in turn trigger actions that affect tangible business outcomes while continuously learning and improving the insights-action-outcome process and results.

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Question: What competitive advantages are insights-driven businesses seeing?

Answer: There are a plethora of tangible business benefits. These include:

  • Top-line benefits such as increased revenues via improved and new products and services, improved customer satisfaction and retention, and new revenue sources via better cross-selling and up-selling to existing customers, plus converting more prospects into customers. For example, advanced insights-driven businesses, compared with beginners, are 2.8 times more likely to report double digit YoY revenue growth.[i]
  • Bottom-line benefits such as cost savings and future cost avoidance, efficiency gains and other productivity improvements, as well as reducing and minimizing losses and regulatory fines based on improved GRC and reputation management. For example, advanced insights-driven businesses, compared with beginners, are 1.5 times more likely to benefit from ensuring compliance and reduced risks as a result from using analytics.[ii]
  • Balance sheet benefits such as reducing reserves required for doubtful debt and operational or higher asset valuation.

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Question: In short, what are the stages of insights-driven business maturity?

Answer: In the annual Forrester "Analytics Global Business Technographics Data and Analytics Survey", we ask data and analytics decision makers to answer 20 questions about their IDB capabilities segmented by strategy, people, process, technology, and data topics. The respondents answer questions by ranking each capability by how rigorously they address each capability, how well they coordinate these efforts across the enterprise, whether there's a clear accountability, and whether the capability can scale. Based on their answers we put them in the Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced categories. (Check these out in the webcast.)

"Advanced insights-driven businesses, compared with beginners, are 2.8 times more likely to report double digit YoY revenue growth." —Boris Evelson, Forrester Research

Question: What are the 5 competencies businesses should be focusing on in their maturity advancement?

Answer: Self-assessments work well by assisting clients in starting to identify gaps in their required capabilities. Next, Forrester works with the clients to help them narrow down gaps by providing samples of what Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced capabilities specifically require across the five pillars—strategy, process, people, data, and technology. Some examples include:

  1. Strategy. Alignment with enterprise digital transformation, leadership commitment, strategic investments, vision clarity, and communication.
  2. Process. Continuous learning and improvement, data and analytics governance, insights distribution, operationalizing insights, and application development methodology.
  3. People. Competency and skill development, data literacy, data science skills, and organizational structure.
  4. Data. Data architecture, data commercialization, data quality, data sourcing, metadata architecture, and management.
  5. Technology. Data management (data lakes, data warehouses, data integration), data governance (data catalogs, master and reference data management), business intelligence, and advanced analytics.

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Question: What are the characteristics of an analytics platform best suited for maturity acceleration, advancement?

Answer: While Forrester can cite hundreds of platform features required for modern analytics, end user self service enablement is undoubtedly one of the top ones. Anecdotal evidence demonstrates that deployments where end users self-author and derive insights from analytical applications on their own in majority (we use 80% as a best practice benchmark) of all use cases are the most successful ones. However, enabling end user self service is no longer just about "user friendly" point-and-click/drag-and-drop GUI.

Forrester sees augmented BI and BI fabric as two of the critical emerging BI platform capabilities to support higher levels of end user self-service:

  • Augmented BI leverages the power of machine learning for deeper insights—by turning all end users into citizen data scientists—and broader access and usability—by allowing end users to interact with applications in natural language, such as asking questions and seeing/hearing answers and recommendations.
  • BI fabric eases the pain when dealing with multiple enterprise BI platforms that most companies have to live with—by providing a common semantic layer, common data catalog, and a common portal for multiple BI platforms—and makes insights pervasive by embedding them into all applications, including ERP, CRM, productivity apps such as email and calendar, and more.

See MicroStrategy's capabilities when it comes to BI fabric.

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Question: What ROI/benefits can an organization expect from investing in a platform with an analytics fabric?

Answer: While we have not surveyed our clients for quantifiable actual ROI yet, the expected tangible benefits are:

  • Cost avoidance. Unquestionably, a single enterprise BI platform will yield a lower long term total cost of ownership. But in the short term integrating multiple BI platforms via BI fabric vs. consolidating and migrating will minimize and even avoid the cost of re-architecting, reprogramming, and migrating.
  • Business disruption avoidance. By letting end users continue to use a BI tool they are familiar with will avoid the need to re-train them and minimize the resulting business disruption.
  • Improved BI and data governance. BI fabric—like a common semantic layer shared by multiple BI platforms—is a natural platform for governance. This is the one place where data and analytics stewards can add approved data sources, and curate models, queries, and metrics.

But the most impactful benefits will materialize from the pervasive insights that BI fabric can enable. If all enterprise decision makers start getting insights from data, not just when they explicitly ask for it, but everywhere and continually throughout their workday, all of the benefits outlined in the second question in this document will manifest faster and with bigger impact.


[i] Data and analytics decision makers at enterprises (1,000 or more employees) report varying levels of YoY revenue growth. Only 26% of respondents at beginner firms report 10%+ YoY revenue growth, compared to 72% of respondents at advanced firms.

Source: Forrester Analytics Global Business Technographics® Data And Analytics Survey, 2019.

[ii] Data and analytics decision makers at enterprises (1,000 or more employees) report varying levels of benefits as a result of using analytics. Only 16% of respondents at beginner firms cite better ensuring compliance and reduced risks as a result of using analytics, compared to 24% of respondents at advanced firms.

Source: Forrester Analytics Global Business Technographics® Data And Analytics Survey, 2019.

Want more insights from Forrester Research and Boris Evelson? Watch this on-demand webcast for a deep dive on insights-driven businesses and how adaptive enterprises are quickly responding to the changes created by COVID-19.

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