In gut we trust: Alteryx finds data distrust behind instinctive decisions

David Reed, director of research and editor-in-chief, DataIQ

Decision makers in the US and the UK are increasingly relying on data and analytics to support critical business choices, yet a hardcore continues to resist adopting these new tools. Research carried out by Alteryx among directors and business owners in both countries has uncovered some of the factors behind their reluctance to move towards evidence-based decision making, as well as some major differences between the two territories.

For US bosses who continue to rely on their gut, the principle reason is that the data insights they are getting are not complete or comprehensive enough (38 per cent), closely followed by data insights not being delivered on time (37 per cent), a lack of trust in data insights (36 per cent) and believing that experience is more valuable than data (36 per cent). Errors in data insights were cited by 27 per cent.

By contrast, UK decision makers have a far stronger conviction that their experience is more valuable than data (41 per cent). Other factors play a part, although less strongly, such as the data insights they are getting are not complete or comprehensive enough (32 per cent), data insights not being delivered on time (29 per cent), data insights tending to have errors (24 per cent) or lacking trust in data insights (21 per cent).

“Even though organisations are spending tonnes of money to collect, store and analyse data, there is a preponderence of senior people who believe more in their instinct than in what data tells them,” explained Bob Laurent, VP product marketing, Alteryx in an interview with DataIQ. “That is unsettling given the investment and the number of people doing great things with data who are getting over-ruled.”

He believes that the rise of the chief data officer is one way in which decisions made by gut will steadily be eliminated, not least because the CDO will build confidence in the reliability of the data and also ensure insights are delivered on time. “We would hope that when organisations have that senior person in place, it would decrease the reliance on instinct,” said Laurent.

Timeliness from submitting a data request to making a decision is a crucial factor, with nearly half of US business decision makers (47 per cent) and 32 per cent of UK business decision makers wanting to improve their speed of access to information. The value which directors and company owners place on their time translates this pressure into a financial value. In the US, an hour of their time is considered to be worth £492 on average - delays in making decisions led to financial losses ranging between £50,907 for forecasting and planning up to £71,415 for marketing and sales modelling. In the UK, an hour of executive time is valued at an average of £354, with the impact of delays costing from £30,898 for optimisation up to £40,284 for financial modelling. “When you quantify those losses, it is the equivalent of one or two full-time employees’ salaries,” said Laurent.

As well as valuing their time more highly, US executives are being served with data insights more quickly, yet still believe they arrive too slowly, compared to their UK peers. For every type of modelling considered, except financial, the time from a data request to a decision is one day more than they want. In the UK, that gap ranges from one day to three days, but delivering for every type of request is slower than in the US by between two and six days.

With the launch of the latest version of its platform, Alteryx Analytics 11.0, the vendor is hoping to close some more of that gap which its research has revealed. As Laurent explained: “Our mission has not changed - we are really focused on enabling the lines of business who are closest to the data and want to do their own analytics to solve business problems. They are still having to rely on others in the organisation to held them understand what data is available or missing, then wait to get an answer and hope it is right.” 

Knowledge and strategy director, DataIQ
David is developing the framework for soft skills and career development among data and analytics practitioners. He continues to be editor-in-chief and research director for DataIQ.