Analytics at Work

“It’s more a compass than a detailed map.”


It was published in 2010 but I just recently discovered a copy of Tom Davenport’s Analytics at Work at Half Price Books. It’s the sequel to the oft-mentioned 2007 Competing on Analytics. Harvard Business Press is the publisher and the target audience is clearly “business” rather than “IT”. The book is divided into two parts. The first part describes the authors’ five success factors, known by the acronym “DELTA”, which conveniently means “change” in mathematical equations:

D for accessible, high-quality data

E for an enterprise orientation

L for analytical leadership

T for strategic targets

A for analysts

Each success factor is described in its own chapter, with details on how to move through the five-step maturity model the authors first introduced in Competing on Analytics, from Analytically Impaired to Localized Analytics to Analytical Aspirations to Analytical Companies and finally to Analytical Competitors.

Davenport Five Stage BI Maturity Model

Once you’ve become analytical, the book’s second half is devoted to “Staying Analytical”, addressing topics such as embedding analytics into business processes and building an analytical culture. My favorite chapter was the one about leadership.

If we had to choose a single factor to determine how analytical an organization will be, it would be leadership. If leaders get behind analytical initiatives, they are much more likely to bear fruit.

Although the authors still maintain that CEO’s must be analytical leaders, this chapter profiles people at different levels in the organization because they are leading rather than simply managing their organization’s analytics initiatives.

I enjoyed the book and I’m glad that I read it, but I think both the strength and weakness of the book is described by the authors in the preface.

This is more of a “how-to” book than its predecessor [Competing on Analytics], but we’ve tried to avoid the extremes of that genre… There’s no fixed methodology here— just some pragmatic suggestions for how to proceed and some frameworks for measuring your progress. It’s more a compass than a detailed map”

From the preface, Analytics at Work
Thomas H. Davenport, Jeanne G. Harris, and Robert Morison

Definitely put me in the “give me a detailed map” camp. It seems that the compass the authors are referring to points to Accenture (as does the book’s now-broken vanity URL,, but many organizations don’t have the budget to engage them to refine their analytics strategy.

If people in your organization have this book on their shelf (and have actually read it), definitely read it so you can share a common language to have engaging conversations about where your organization currently lands on their maturity model and how to make progress on the five DELTA success factors. But if you’re looking for just one book- whether you’re in IT, running the business or somewhere in-between—I still recommend Wayne Eckerson’s Performance Dashboards (see related book review, Performance Dashboards).

Have you read Analytics at Work? What did you think?

Author: Dallas Marks

I am a business intelligence architect, author, and trainer. I help organizations harness the power of analytics, primarily with SAP BusinessObjects products. An active blogger, SAP Mentor and co-author of the SAP Press book SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide, I prefer piano keyboards over computer keyboards when not blogging or tweeting about business intelligence.

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