Analytical Innovators, Analytical Practitioners, or Analytically Challenged?


Here is an excellent report that I read a few months ago – “Reimagining the Possible with Data Analytics: What Makes Companies That Are Great at Analytics Different from Everyone Else” produced by MIT Sloan Management Review and SAS Institute this past spring.

While the report is geared toward businesses and for-profit organizations, the basic principles also speak to the work of research, data and analytics for congregations, judicatories, and denominations. In summary, three different types of organizations were identified through the research study that was conducted.

1. Analytically Challenged (29% of organizations)

  • Data deficient
  • Weak information value chain
  • Lack of collaboration
  • No burning platform

2. Analytical Practitioners (60% of organizations)

  • “Just good enough” data
  • Operational focus on analytics
  • Fragmented analytics ecosystem

3. Analytical Innovators (11% of organizations)

  • They think differently
  1. View data as a core asset—analytical insights are part of the culture of the organization and are utilized in strategic decisions, both large and small
  2. Open to new ideas and ways of thinking that challenge the status quo
  3. Believe in the possible
  • They act differently
  1. Use more of their data
  2. Use their data to obtain more timely answers—increases understanding; moves from data analysis done by a small group of analysts to data-driven decisions throughout the organizations done by most of the staff
  3. Collaborate more with the use of analytics
  4. More effective throughout the information value chain—more than twice as effective at capturing information, three times as effective at analyzing information, and three times as effective at using insights to guide strategy
  • They have distinct outcomes
  1. Power shifts to those with insight—calls into question decisions based solely on intuition and experience; gives the power to innovate
  2. Creates a culture in which analytics is part of how decisions get made

The report offers some specific strategies for moving both Analytically Challenged and Analytical Practitioners to becoming Analytical Innovators, dealing directly with the challenges that the first two groups face. The report is much more detailed (thankfully), but in short:


  • Start where you are
  • Find like-minds
  • Conduct a data and talent audit
  • Identify low-hanging fruit / quick wins
  • Show demonstrable benefit and value


  • Try to boil the ocean
  • Alienate potential partners
  • Focus on what you can’t do
  • Start with overly complex issues
  • Rely solely on technology

Which characteristic (Analytically, Challenged, Analytical Practitioner, or Analytical Innovator) most accurately describes your congregation? Your association? Your conference? The denomination? (I have my own thoughts about the last question.)

What value does becoming an Analytical Innovator have for the church, or for your own congregation?



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