Do not mistake an operationally strong analytics culture with dissemination of pre-computed dashboards.

There are three distinct levels that strong analytical organizations ascend to in order to unlock the full value of their data investments. Building aggregated reports and pushing them on a schedule to various organizational domains is just the first level, and is increasingly a basic requirement.

However, measuring by averages is woefully inadequate and often not actionable. Level 2 is about exploiting the power of segmentation, and understanding the inherent connections and dependencies across the business. Every metric has many stories to tell depending on its distribution and segmentation. And metrics are connected to each other as part of a cohesive ecosystem that represents the underlying business processes at play.

So, the ability to easily disaggregate and analyze metrics by their various segments, and traverse innate connections across metrics is an evolutionary marker for a strong analytics culture. Many organizations aspire to this intuitively but are held back by the gravitational pull of what today's reporting tools have made easy, and what remains time-consuming, labor-intensive, and hard.

Level 3 is heavily associated with level 2 – it’s a culture of hypothesis generation and thoughtful intervention, perpetually seeking to uncover and act on the business drivers and levers. Executives and operators tend to ask the question: “what insights does this data tell us to do – what’s actionable?”. In reality, the opposite direction is relatively easier and immensely valuable – an action or intervention can be converted into valuable insights around business drivers, which in turn can shape the next action or intervention.

In summary, an operationally strong analytics culture goes well beyond org-wide dissemination of reports. It combines two forces: 1) a thoughtful, hypothesis-driven, intervention-oriented mindset with 2) rapid and powerful analysis capabilities that move the organization beyond averages (via segmentation) and isolated reports (via metric connections).

Once you ascend to levels 2 and 3, the value from your data investments starts compounding, and it becomes a wonderful, virtuous cycle of action → insights → action. Data is just woven into the day-to-day operational fabric of the business.