Measurement and Analytics Magic

In the (really, really) old days, facts and information were closely held secrets. Knowledge of when eclipses happened, or how to build a brick, or what crops to rotate, were guarded with lives and passed down through generations. Those that had access to that information could pull off feats that seemed like magic to everyone who didn’t know any better.

In 2016, there is no shortage of information. In fact, sorting what is useful intelligence from just clutter has in itself become a type of arcane knowledge. That is why in the Brandon Hall Group Measurement and Analytics Impact model, we were very careful in our definitions of the four tiers we created so that it wasn’t just a question of amount of data available.

  • Tactical: we mostly rely on ad-hoc metrics and reports
  • Functional: we have benchmarks and dashboards that are regularly updated and shared with all stakeholders
  • Operational: we have integrated data and would consider ourselves an analytics-driven company
  • Strategic: we regularly utilize predictive analytics that inform prescriptive talent decisions and actions


When asked to place themselves in one of these four tiers, participants in the 2016 Workforce Measurement and Analytics Study indicated the following:

  • Tactical 42%
  • Functional 35%
  • Operational 16%
  • Strategic 7%

The obvious point that jumps out is that most organizations rate themselves in the least mature tier: tactical. There is another thing that jumps out at me from those numbers though – the differences between them:

  • Tactical to Functional: 7 percentage points
  • Functional to Operational: 19 percentage points
  • Operational to Strategic: 9 percentage points

That tells me that upward movement in levels of sophistication hits a major obstacle between functional and operational. Why is that? Well, let’s look at the definitions provided again:

  • Operational: we have integrated data and would consider ourselves an analytics-driven company

What sets that definition apart are two words: integration, analytics-driven. The first of those things, integration, has to do with systems (are they integrated or not, which is a fairly straightforward question), but the other is a little more ambiguous. Being an ‘analytics-driven’ company is really a question of culture, and whether data and analytics are used to make decisions at the highest level (and in that case, probably also the lowest).

That might explain why it is so hard to reach that third tier. Unlike moving from tactical to functional, where the differences are in how data is presented, and to whom, going to the operational level requires a company-wide acceptance of evidence-based decision making. That puts an onus on leadership to not only examine how they are making decisions (data-led or from the gut?), but also how those decisions are communicated to their employees.

Because even if the direction of the company is being set only after arduous and empirically sound research and planning, if the employees don’t know how you got to where you are going they might just think you’re consulting the stars.

Cliff Stevenson, Principal Analyst, Workforce Management, Brandon Hall Group



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