With more than two decades of analytics and insight under his belt, Dr. Eugene Roytburg, managing partner and co-founder of Deerfield, Ill.-based 4i Consulting, knows a thing or two about helping clients wrap their heads around the influx of data companies are swimming in these days. Roytburg stresses the importance of companies making the leap from intuition-based decision making and trusting in the insights hidden in all that data, provided they know what they’re looking for and how to read it in the first place.
Consulting: How and why did you come to co-found 4i?
Roytburg: My background is in advanced analytics and engineering, so one question I was always asking when we were doing consulting work was how are we sure the decisions and recommendations we provided to our clients are optimal, or how are we sure that they’re the best decisions we’re providing, not just leveraging experience and expertise of our consultants but looking at the data? That was partially when I felt our recommendations specifically in the management consulting world related to hypothesis-driven approaches is just not solid enough.
4i is a leading consulting and analytics firm that helps drive growth decisions within clients, all the way from growth strategy to how do we execute the growth, activate it and sustain it for a long period of time. One of the things we’ve developed over the last 12 years is how do we address growth questions combining a traditional management consulting approach with their process of advanced analytics, because you can’t talk about growth without leveraging analytics.
Consulting: What are some of the biggest challenges clients are facing as they try to get analytics frameworks in place?
Roytburg: The key question should not be around the data. I think the biggest challenge is that companies and clients are confused and overwhelmed by all the data out there. This is the big problem. They should not worry about the data, they should worry about the quality of the decisions they’re making and whether the data as well as the approach they’re making the decision with is sufficient. The problem a lot of companies have is that they’re looking at a lot of that data and saying: “I need to have this data,” without an understanding of how it can be leveraged.
In a typical consulting approach we always start with a business problem, in our case it’s a problem of growth. Where is growth going to come from in the next 3, 5, 10 years? If you start with defining growth (geographies, markets, different categories of products, etc.,) then look at the specific relevant data, then you can develop a much better understanding of the information you have already at your disposal as well as what gaps you have and then try to identify them. Companies have to start thinking from the top-down, from decisions to business issues, to the approach they use to make those decisions, to the data they use to support those decisions, not the reverse. That’s what needs to change.
Consulting: How does 4i help clients get on the right path?
Roytburg: We’re sitting with clients helping them develop what we call business issue-driven data strategies. In our world of growth and marketing and innovation and sales there’s so much data out there. So we go to the clients and say, what are the top 5-10 questions in growth you have? We then map out the entire process from the questions to the analytics and business approaches they use to solve it and the data. We develop those maps and we can then assess what data they have or don’t. That’s how we’re working with every client we have in helping them develop a strategy so they’re not wasting a lot of money and resources in developing.
Consulting: You speak to the need for insight and analytics functions to “grow up,” can you extrapolate on that a little?
Roytburg: In the last 10 years, those functions have been buying a lot of tools and processes and have grown their budgets a lot. However, one of the biggest concerns has been around the level of activation and usage of the insights to drive the decisions being relatively low. Our benchmarking study of 37 companies has shown that the activation rate, that is, how much of the insights are being translated or leveraged by the management to make decisions, has been at 32 percent.
Meaning 68 percent of all the funding and resources being spent on analytics have been wasted. Which means insights are developed but for a number of reasons not leveraged by the management, or the quality of those insights were so low that the management didn’t want to use it. They have not gone through the process of efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity improvements as other core competencies like marketing or supply chain. That’s why they need to grow. They need to mature, to be asking why we need this data? Why do we do this study? How can I translate that know-how to translate that analytical output into the business implication?
Consulting: Do you see analytics reaching the level of importance as something like marketing or supply chain within firms?
Roytburg: It will if those functions understand they need to change and to stop chasing the new tools and new shiny toys in the form of data and truly connect to the business world. This is where consulting skill sets are very important. They need to make this change to really demonstrate the relevance. Once they do this it’s going to be very important. Companies will not be able to compete in the future without very sophisticated analytics-driven ways of making those decisions. Where the management resists so far is that ability of those functions to be able to convey those messages in a simple way that will be truly driving the decisions. Only when both management and those functions change will something happen.