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Analytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results Hardcover – 1 Jan 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business School Press; 1ST edition (1 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422177696
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422177693
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 140,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

A primer for managers who want to introduce a more rigorous approach to the use of data.
--Financial Times, March 10, 2010

This book provides a comprehensive lowdown on how to apply analytics without neglecting the basics. Comprehensive with a useful appendix. --CPO Agenda, Spring 2010

About the Author

Thomas H. Davenport, a chaired professor at Babson and an Accenture Fellow, has a well-established reputation on the business implications of technology and has authored, co-authored, or edited 12 books - 8 with Harvard Business Press. Three of the books have been best-sellers.

Jeanne G. Harris has worked with analytics, decision support and business intelligence at Accenture for over 23 years and headed the consulting practice in that area for the firm for several years. She is now Executive Research Fellow and Director of Research for the Accenture Institute for High Performance Business. She would be able to marshal client examples, ideas from consultants and marketing support from Accenture (and its many alliance partners) for this book.

Robert Morison leads research for nGenera (formerly the Concours Group), is co-author of Workforce Crisis and has co-directed the Business Analytics Concours research program for the past two years.


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 Sep 2012
Format: Hardcover
From baseball to Wall Street, stories abound about the ways data and analytics change the games people play for fun and profit. Professor Thomas H. Davenport, executive Jeanne G. Harris and business researcher Robert Morison explain how companies can use good data and rigorous analytical inquiry to inform major decisions and processes. They guide the reader through an instructive road map to rerouting organizational DNA into an analytical mind-set. Their book is significantly less stuffy, dry and boring than it could be; no matter how intricate the authors get about spreadsheets, modeling software or analytical wonks, they always add some humor to leaven the reading. And that illustrates one of their crucial themes: "Analytical leaders" must always place people above data and pursue goals that truly matter to their firms and stakeholders. Every business has data that it uses poorly or doesn't use at all, and every business could employ and retain more analytical thinkers; on both counts, this book can help. getAbstract suggests it to executives and managers looking for quantitative methods that lead to qualitative results.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr Jonathan Charley on 5 Jun 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A very good pragmatic guide to introducing the use of business analytics into the wrokplace. Focusing on the business rather than the technology this book provides some valuable frameworks for evaluating the current analytics maturity of an organisation along with practical steps and examples of how to implement.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G Ranger on 28 Nov 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book illustrates how some businesses are improving results by using data analysis to inform decisions. This is a clear trend over the past decade and a wide range of examples are given.

What makes this useful is that it is written for business users who want to learn more about this area and improve the analytical capabilities within their organisations. So it includes frameworks which cover the stages of analytical evolution in a business, and the key ingredients for success, along with some thoughts on making the journey to more data-driven decision making.

I like the fact that it is concise and not a great thick tome, but still gives good coverage to a very topical subject. Although I've said it's really for non-analysts, I think analysts will also find it an encouraging and thought provoking book.

It's probably the best book for practically introducing the subject and the authors are all credible and advising major companies in this space.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful By shawn on 2 Aug 2010
Format: Hardcover
great way to level set away from technology perspective to a business one (context of what matters and to whom)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 31 reviews
189 of 214 people found the following review helpful
Pointless, meandering prose 16 Jun 2010
By Dr George Chua - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book contains some occasional flashes of brilliance, like Figure 1-1 which succinctly summarizes the key questions addressed by analytics. The rest of the book is padded with pointless, meandering and buzzwords-laden prose. Case in point:

"Stage 5 organizations develop a robust information management environment that provides an enterprise wide set of systems, applications, and governance processes. They begin by eliminating legacy systems and old spaghetti code and press forward to eliminate silos of information like data marts and spreadsheet marts. They hunt for pockets of standalone analytic applications and either migrate them to centralized analytic applications or shut them down."

The entire book actually reads like that.

As an applied statistician and an avid reader of business books, I cannot - for the life of me - imagine why people will want to write a book like this. What is the target reader of such a book? Technical professionals like myself will find the book absolutely useless to guide analytical projects. Business professionals will be confused and put off by all the buzzwords.
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
A good how-to book for adopting analytics 22 Jan 2010
By James Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I received a pre-release copy of Tom Davenport' new book Analytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results. The book is a follow-on to Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning and is a shorter, pithier book than its predecessor. Once again Tom collaborates with Jeanne Harris and this time Robert Morison of the Concours group. Where the previous book focused on so-called analytic competitors, this is about "analytics for the rest of us". It is a very readable book with some good practical advice that does not require the remaking of your company in a new image. It is also a quick read, it is only 180 pages or so, which should help get more people to read it.

And I hope people do read it. As Tom says "The unexamined decision isn't worth making" and too many companies and organizations are making unexamined decisions, failing to apply data they have about what works and what does not, making the same mistakes over and making dumb decisions. Like Tom I think it is time for this to stop and this book will tell you how.

The book's focus is broad, covering how analytics can address key questions of information and insight in each of the past, present, future - reporting, alerts and forecasting give information in the past, present and future while modeling, recommendations and predictions/optimization do the same for insight. For me the most useful part of the book is part one - a set of chapters describing The Analytic DELTA - Data, Enterprise, Leadership, Targets and Analysts - what Tom regards as the 5 critical elements of successful analytic adoption:
* D - accessible, high quality data - I particularly like the focus on uniqueness as a criteria and on using the business need (decision) to drive data quality and integration
* E - enterprise orientation not fractured analytic projects
* L - analytical leadership
* T - strategic targets - a crucial element, that of focusing on using analytics to develop distinctive capabilities. This chapter has a great list of processes that lend themselves to analytics and a very helpful "ladder of analytic applications" to develop from simple to more complex analytic solutions
* A - analysts - a nice chapter with good thoughts on how to manage analysts as a strategic resource.

Part two addresses how to stay analytical through embedding analytics in business processes, building an analytic culture, reviewing your business comprehensively and embarking on an analytical journey towards "more analytical decisions and better results." I really liked the focus on embedding analytics in business processes - this is a topic close to my heart and one we discussed in Smart Enough Systems: How to Deliver Competitive Advantage by Automating Hidden Decisions. The authors do a nice job of explaining why organizations need to adopt a test and learn mindset, to be always unsatisfied and mindful of change and to focus on an "industrial" analytic process.

The authors end by pointing out that becoming analytic is not a one-time activity but must be ongoing - it is a journey which organizations must begin, where they must build momentum and where they must go from thinking of analytics to thinking about decisions and decision making, from analytic management to decision management.
It's a great book and you should buy it.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Analytics at Work, actionable and practical advice on working with information 27 Jan 2010
By Mark P. McDonald - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Analytics is a hot topic and executives looking to get value from business intelligence. This book discusses how they do that. I recommend this book as perhaps THE book for people looking to establish and sustain an ability to use information in decision-making and process execution.

There is a sweet spot for business books between the illustration of a business idea and a discussion of its practical implementation. Business books that are too high level offer great ideas that appear realistic only to angels. Too low of a level and it's a technical manual that makes the idea seem mundane. I mention this because Analytics at Work rests firmly in the sweet spot between these extremes.

Davenport, Harris and Morison have taken ideas originally expressed in Competing on Analytics and taken them to the next level - reality. If competing on analytics describes the characteristics of an `analytic competitor' and their principles, then this book moves from principle to practice discussing issues from data management, through to changes in corporate structure and culture. The book is comprehensive without being a compendium. It is clearly written to provide a guide that helps you apply analytics to your situation without being a set of instructions that are applicable to few people.

Strengths:

The book has frequent and recognizable examples of executives and applications of analytics. These examples illustrate the author's points without appearing contrived. The examples and case studies are a real strength particularly as they come from companies with different levels of analytic intensity. This gives the reader the ability to see how analytics comes in many sizes and fits different situations.

A practical discussion of the issues related to analytics rather than a relentless boosting of the idea and principles. The authors recognize that business intelligence has been around for a while, that people will adopt analytics at different levels of intensity and that makes the book real to executives and practitioners.

The book offers a comprehensive discussion of the strategies, organization structure and execution implications of analytics in the enterprise. For a 214-page book, Analytics at Work covers a lot of ground without seeming rushed or superficial.

Graphical, the book makes effective use of frameworks and diagrams that bring the concepts into tighter focus and reality. Executives can use these diagrams to understand and perhaps more importantly to share with others to explain how analytics apply to their business.

Challenges:

While the book discusses analytics at all levels, it tends to concentrate analytics activities into a specific group of subject matter experts. While I agree that analytics requires specific skills, setting these `quants' up as a special group may limit the spread of analytics across the enterprise. This is a minor point that does not reduce the value of the book.

Overall Analytics at Work is a rare book that covers both the concept and the implementation of a business idea. I recommend the book as it represents a well-balanced, action oriented approach that executives should read to raise the value of information in their enterprise.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Practicing analytics 24 Jan 2010
By Erik Gfesser - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well composed follow-up by the writers of "Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning" and Robert Morison, coauthor of "Workforce Crisis: How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills and Talent". While the previous effort by Davenport and Harris focused on the use of analytics for competitive strategy, this book focuses on deploying analytics in day-to-day operations. Use of the "five stages of analytical competition", which describes the analytics phases through which firms pass as their level of maturity increases from "analytically impaired" or "flying blind" to "analytical competitors" or "enterprise-wide, big results, sustainable advantage", continues here, but is now superimposed by what the authors deem the "DELTA" success factors - accessible, high-quality "Data", "Enterprise" orientation, analytical "Leadership", strategic "Targets", and "Analysts" - that are associated with the transition of firms from one level of competitive strategy to the next. The authors further this presentation of the analytical DELTA by discussing the embedding of analytics in business processes, the building of an analytical culture, the continual reviewing of analytical approaches, and meeting challenges along the way.

According to research conducted by the authors, 40% of major business decisions are not based on facts, but on the manager's gut. As the authors point out, "sometimes intuitive and experience-based decisions work out well, but often they either go astray or end in disaster: executives pursue mergers and acquisitions to palliate their egos, neglecting the sober considerations that create real value; banks make credit and risk decisions based on unexamined assumptions about always-rising asset values; governments rely on sparse intelligence before deciding whether to wage war. Such are the most extreme cases of ill-informed decision making. In other cases, nonanalytical decisions don't lead to tragedy, but they do leave money on the table: businesses price products and services based on their hunches about what the market will bear, not on actual data detailing what consumers have been willing to pay under similar circumstances in the past; managers hire people based on intuition, not on an analysis of the skills and personality traits that predict an employee's high performance; supply chain managers maintain a comfortable level of inventory, rather than a data-determined, optimal level; baseball scouts zoom in on players who 'look the part', not on those with the skills that - according to analytics - win games". And "while analytics are not perfect, we prefer them to the shoddy alternatives of bias, prejudice, self-justification, and unaided intuition. Humans often make long lists of excuses not to be analytical, but there's plenty of research showing that data, facts, and analysis are powerful aids to decision making, and that the decisions made on them are better than those made through intuition or gut instinct. Therefore, use analytics. If you can measure and analyze something, do it - but don't forget to incorporate your experience, knowledge, and qualitative insights around the world".

The point of this book is to present a set of tools to make one's firm more analytical, and demonstrate that becoming more analytical should be an essential concern for the entire organization. In essence, the authors present analytics to readers who do not necessarily want to transform their firms into analytical competitors, but to move them to greater analytical maturity. This reviewer particularly enjoyed the second part of this book, which discusses various topics centered around the concern of staying analytical. For example, the authors discuss the difference between "craft" and "industrial" approaches to employing business analytics, where the former is a one-time effort that is inherently limited in effect, and the latter takes more time and effort up front but leads to instantaneous automated decision making. Accompanying this discussion is an explanation on how embedded predictive analytics fits into claims processing in the insurance industry, and a well presented diagram by SPSS that shows how manual and automated or partially automated decision making can be joined together in one overall process, reminiscent of what James Taylor and Neil Raden present at length in "Smart (Enough) Systems: How to Deliver Competitive Advantage by Automating Hidden Decisions". The authors later discuss what their research has concluded on how to overcome obstacles, or "sticking points" specific to embedded analytics implementations.

The chapter entitled "Build an Analytical Culture" combined with the earlier chapter "Analysts" from the first part of the book are especially well written, incorporating discussions on how to start and grow an analytical culture, as well as how to attract and retain analytical talent. In the closing chapters, the authors present what they do and do not promise, and as a consultant this reviewer especially appreciated this aspect of this text; regarding the latter, "analytical decisions aren't the only ones that will lead to success", "your analytical decisions won't always be perfect", "you'll need to develop new analytically based insights to stay ahead of the competition", "sometimes the world will change, and invalidate the models that guide your decisions", and "analytics are not all you need to make good decisions"; regarding the former, "you'll make better strategic decisions", "you'll make better tactical and operational decisions", "you'll have a better ability to solve problems", "you'll have better business processes", "you'll be able to make faster decisions and get more consistent results", "you'll be able to anticipate shifting trends and market conditions", and "you'll get better business results". In the view of this reviewer, this book is not only appropriate for business readers new to analytics, but for consultants and other practicing individuals already comfortable with analytics who want to continue to demonstrate the value of analytics to clients. Well recommended.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The title is spot on 24 Jun 2011
By Andrew Foote - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is an easy read especially if you are used to more informative books on analytical rigor and methodology. The good aspect about the concept of this book is that it does get people thinking about analysis and using fact based decision making models. What this book lacks in is connecting the dots between assumptions and actual skill sets. It does go into some techniques and approaches but this in itself is not detailed enough. Compared to other books used in graduate school methodology courses, this book falls short where it should be leading the way forward. Page 10-11 in the section "When Are Analytics Not Practical" states many scenarios where going on an ad hoc decision making paradigm is preferable. Here is the beginning of where this book falls apart. All of these scenarios are perfect opportunities to employ analysis. The lack of the authors understanding of analysis and how it can be applied to these scenarios is concerning. The best use of this book would be as a introduction to analysis provided to an audiance that is not familiar with logical fact based decison making paradigms.

The most important aspect to this book is that it gets people thinking about how to use fact based decision paradigms. And that is essential in this economic environment.

Some titles I would refer that would fill in the gaps that this book has created are:
The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis
Intelligence Analysis: A Target-Centric Approach
Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis

I understand that most people who read business books probably are wondering what tittles referring to intelligence analysis would have to offer the business world. The answer is simple, the principles outlined in those books are very similar to the ones outlined in Analytics at Work. The difference is that those three titles offer a more holistic approach to analyzing any problem that an organization may face.
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