Business analytics are changing everything – the way businesses operate, the products and services they offer, the way they nurture prospects, the way they support customers, and more. So in the spirit of analytics, we decided to analyse how.

Our 2015 State of Analytics report explores the latest analytics trends and challenges, drawing on input from over 2,000 business leaders – based here in the UK, and across the world.

Here’s what’s going down (and up) with business analytics today.

Trend #1: Analytics are now central to business strategy

Once upon a time, data was something a business used to deliver its products and services, and keep tabs on its own efficiency. These days, thanks to increasingly sophisticated analytics tools, the most successful businesses are placing data right at the heart of their overall business strategy.

60% of the best-performing companies we surveyed said they’re currently using data to drive business decisions – something that’s only true for 13% of under-performing peers.

One thing the vast majority of businesses agree on, however, is that analytics are only going to become more essential, with almost two thirds predicting a rise in the importance of analytics over the next two years. 

Trend #2: Analytics are in every corner of the business

Analytics aren’t just growing in importance, they’re growing full stop – pushing their way into new corners of the business.

Here are today’s most popular use cases:

  • Driving operational efficiencies
  • Facilitating growth
  • Optimising operational processes
  • Improving existing products, services and features
  • Identifying new revenue streams
  • Generating new ideas and innovating
  • Monitoring customer loyalty

Each of these use cases is being practiced by at least one in every three of the business leaders we surveyed.

To support this growing roster of applications, businesses are tracking an ever wider variety of data – from email and research data, to transactional data, event-driven data, and social media data.

In fact, the most successful companies surveyed are regularly analysing an average of 17 different data types.

Trend #3 Analytics just got real-time

How do you make big decisions fast, without making big mistakes? You get your analytics working in real-time, and make sure they’re available whenever and wherever you need them.

59% of high-performing business leaders say they’re able to gleam timely insights form their analytics tools, versus just 11% of laggards.

There’s an almost equally stark division when it comes to making use of mobile analytics, with top performers 3.5x more likely to be able to analyse and act on the go.

Trend #4 The democratisation of analytics has begun

Getting the most from business analytics takes vision, planning, and strong leadership. Indeed, 90% of top performers say their executive team is committed to the success of analytics tools and technologies.

But that doesn’t mean the savviest c-suites are keeping analytics to themselves. Far from it. Top performers are placing analytics at the fingertips of employees throughout their organisations – with 41% reporting that over half their staff use analytics tools.

The Analytics Challenges

As we’ve seen, the most successful businesses are using more analytics, in more areas, on more data, of more types, from more sources. And they’re striving to make access to the insights analytics deliver more timely, and more democratic.

But to achieve analytics’ full potential, many business leaders believe there’s still much more to be done. Over half of those surveyed identified with the following pain points:

  • Insufficient automation – 53% are still relying on manual processes to get a single view of all the relevant data, while 52% say they’re spending too much time updating spreadsheets.
  • Insufficient usage – 53% feel too much data is still going unanalysed.
  • Insufficient access – 50% say analysis is still being performed by business analysts, not end users.

Other concerns include analytics tools and reports giving inconsistent results (41%), and mistrust among business users when it comes to data outcomes (47%).

Read the full report

Putting analytics to efficient, effective work within a business can still be a struggle. But it’s well worth the effort. Check out the full report to see just how consistently today’s top-performing businesses turn out to be today’s top users of analytics.