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Some 59% of executives around the world report that analytics creates a competitive advantage at their organization, according to a report [download page] from MIT Sloan Management Review. That level of enthusiasm is largely consistent with recent years, when between 51% and 67% of organizations have felt that way. But there continues to be a large gap between access to data and the ability to derive meaningful insights from the data.

This issue has been acutely felt by marketers: in a recent study, for example, only a minority of companies reported being able to thoroughly leverage customer data for important marketing objectives. It’s a long-running problem, too: a few years ago, a study found the vast majority of executives considering data to be the most underutilized asset in marketing organizations.

In this latest study, sponsored by SAS, MIT Sloan Management Review surveyed 1,919 managers, executives, and data professionals from companies around the world.

The results demonstrated that more than three-quarters (77%) believe that they’ve had a somewhat or significant increase in access to useful data over the past year. That continues a strong run of increasing access to data: at least 7 in 10 respondents have felt that way each year beginning in 2012.

But access to useful data doesn’t necessarily mean that companies are able to translate the data into meaningful strategic insights.

In fact, just 49% of respondents to this latest survey reported being somewhat or very effective at using data-informed insights to guide future strategy. That ties the lowest mark since 2012, a problematic finding as survey research has shown that the most important objective of data-driven marketing is to make more decisions based on data analysis.

It would seem to be a disconnect: a majority feel that they gain a competitive advantage from analytics, and most are getting more access to useful data; yet fewer can leverage data-backed insights to inform their strategies.

As the report’s analysts suggest, “while analytics is providing advantage in many areas, more and more data is available in other areas that companies have not been able to use well.” As companies access increasing amounts of useful data, they’re realizing how much more they could be doing with it. (The more you know, the more you know you don’t know…)

Those companies deemed “analytical innovators” in the report are able to use more external data sources than their “analytically challenged” counterparts, per the study. Those sources include mobile phones, wearables, and sensors.

Moreover, companies with access to timely data are more apt to report a range of outcomes, including customer engagement and satisfaction. Interestingly, B2B companies were found to have a higher level of customer engagement with analytics than B2C companies.

A key constraint identified in the report? Talent. Indeed, CMOs have said that data analytics and insights skills are among the most challenging to secure when building a team.

It looks as though investments in analytics skills will be on the rise…

The full report can be downloaded here.

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