In January 2018, Thomas C. Redman published an article in the Harvard Business Review, noting, “Getting as much as they can from analytics is critical for companies seeking to monetize their data, become data-driven, and put their data to work. Yet most find this difficult. Indeed, the failure rate of analytics projects remains distressingly high.”

Redman continued, “Senior managers fail to manage their data scientists properly.”

However, the problem might be even more fundamental than that.

Asking the right questions

A majority of organizations still ask first-level questions about their businesses. For example, if you’re a parcel carrier red, yellow and green light top-level indicators on system dashboards may tell you when a production line lags–or you can see how many packages arrive on time. But if you want to dig deeper to find the causes of production delays, you have to ask the right questions.

SEE: Quick glossary: Business intelligence and analytics (Tech Pro Research)

This is where businesses struggle for insights. They don’t always know how to ask uniquely incisive questions that can uncover a breakthrough insight for the business.

After all, data is power. The trucking industry found this out first-hand after a federal law in 2015 passed forcing the trucking industry to install electronic logging devices for safety purposes. The logging devices, sensors and software monitor hours on the road, track the whereabouts of trucks, how long it takes to make deliveries, and safety factors such as how often a driver brakes, or exceeds speed limits.

“Companies discovered how powerful the telematics data collected from vehicles could be,” said Ryan Wilkinson, CTO at Vehicle Tracking Solutions, which provides fleet management solutions. “Now they get real time data from the electronic control module (ECM) on the vehicle. They can see a check engine indicator on a truck flipping on at night and immediately check whether a vehicle is stranded and requires help.”

Telematics data from vehicles also transports to companies in real time so they can also monitor when vehicles need to be maintained.

SEE: Quick glossary: Big data (Tech Pro Research)

Taking advantage of analytics

What really matters, though, is that companies can quickly take advantage of this data because vendors work with them during analytics implementations to pre-configure reports, and assist companies develop the right questions instead of company’s experiencing painful trial-and-error exercises on their own.

“By pre-configuring dashboard and custom reports for clients, we help clients more rapidly reach the point of high business value with their analytics so that they can get the most out of the platform by asking the right questions,” said Wilkinson. “So, if you suddenly find your fleet costing you 30% more over a 24-month period, you can look at driving habits; or if you see that your fuel bill is going up, you can look at which fuel pumps cards were swiped and whether they were on your routes.”

Pre-configuring for effective analytics queries doesn’t answer every question–but it is helping companies arrive at meaningful business insights faster.

“What we know is that business insights derived from big data are only useful if they are easy to get to and deliver an answer that the business can use,” said Wilkinson, “As an analytics firm, that’s what we strive for.”