• July 21, 2016

For Your Information: Getting the Intelligence You Need

Turn data into insight and insight into action.

By Kenneth Elliott, Global Director of Analytics, Enterprise Services

We’re about to witness a mass extinction of companies, large and small, who are unable to turn information into intelligence for competitive advantage. They will be—no, are being—replaced by companies who are digitizing their business processes, harnessing internal and external information, deriving insights from this data, and taking action on these insights faster than the rest. Today’s globalization and rate of innovation in nearly all sectors mean a shorter shelf life for products and services. In this idea economy, data is the fuel, and intelligence is the core asset of any company.

Gartner identified this challenge of turning Big Data into intelligence as an IT megatrend, citing its potential to drive real-time operations, security, and business decisions. They acknowledged that this deluge of data is growing exponentially. If an enterprise doesn’t change how it ingests and analyzes information—and if their actionable insights don’t grow with the growth of available data—the gap will continue to expand, and the enterprise will ultimately lose relevance.

The trick is to turn data into insight and insight into action.

Data and Information

Merriam-Webster defines “information” as the communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence. This definition implies that knowledge or intelligence has already been acquired. Therefore data, or the raw facts and elements that serve as inputs to generating knowledge and intelligence, must precede information.

With the recent focus on handling Big Data, IT has been less focused on “information” technology and more on data technology. However, CIOs of today’s most competitive companies are mastering the management of data and focusing more on the generation and delivery of intelligent information to their business partners as a vital part of the business strategy.

Data and Insight

It is imperative to have a data strategy that integrates internal data, captures streaming data, ingests and decodes video and audio data, collects sensor and location data, and—according to Gartner—accesses the 50 percent of business-relevant data that is external to the organization. However, without the ability to extract meaning and understanding from this data, it is of little value.

The problem is that the volume, variety, and unstructured nature of data not only poses a challenge for data management, but it also poses a challenge for those who are tasked to make sense of the data. There are simply not enough skilled analysts nor hours in the day to analyze all of this data with traditional methods. Algorithms are needed to find hidden patterns in massive amounts of data. In even larger cases, software is needed that learns on its own and is able to help spot anomalies and predict potential future outcomes. This is the domain of data science. Once an “art” conducted in the shadow of IT, data science has become an integral part of information management and business strategy.

Insight and Action

Data without insight is of little value. So too is insight without action. Taking action based on analytic insight requires an understanding of how decisions are made in an organization. In the case of exponentially growing data and the demand for more insight, an organization needs to consider how to automate decisions.

Some decisions can be turned over to analytic calculations, managed by rules and monitored for ongoing performance. Some analytic recommendations and predictions can be delivered in real time to aid decision-makers and field workers on the front lines. A careful review of business decision-making, whether for increasing revenue, reducing costs, or managing risks, can help streamline and automate the time between data and action.

Looking Ahead

In the past, business intelligence and analytics were largely historical, utilizing backward-looking reports to see how much product was sold, how many customers were gained or lost, etc. In order to remain competitive, enterprises need to ask: How do I automate analytics to gain insight faster? How do I integrate analytics into operational decisions? How do I treat information and insight as a company asset and turn it into a competitive advantage?

The energetic pace of information will only continue to grow. Develop a strategy for turning information into action before your competition or an up-and-coming disruptor beats you to it.


Watch Gartner analyst Tom Bittman discuss turning information into action, and see the complete series of videos and articles on Gartner megatrends.