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Analytics: Are You a Suit or a T-shirt?

Posted on: 11-01-2016 12:13:251065


It has been said that there are two schools of thought when it comes to analytics; the traditional top-down hindsight reporting style typically adopted by the C-suite, (the ‘suits’), or the dynamic, self-service version that is championed at the front line of the business (the ‘T-shirts’). In this blog, we’ll briefly examine the key characteristics that are often associated with each analytics type, and in turn, help you determine whether you’re more likely to put on a suit or a T-shirt.

The Suits

It was not long ago that business analytics was all hype but no real end product. Not anymore. Analytics is now seen as a necessity, required to enable businesses to understand and rapidly react to ever changing market conditions. Organizations are now looking at business analytics as a key competitive weapon to help them make sense of the tidal wave of new data that has become available since the digitization and e-commerce movements took off.

Laggard companies without an analytics strategy, those that are still grasping for information in order to find out what happened last month, are now seen to be putting themselves at a severe disadvantage.

So how (and why) did things change so quickly?

Those wearing the suits drove the movement towards the first wave of analytics; hindsight based analysis that reports the previous month’s actual results against the annual target and previous plans. Data that supported processes such as Sales and Operations Planning and IBP; and which provided the perfect level of intel for the C-suite. The introduction of this increased level of insight into business performance almost immediately caused a ripple effect downstream in the organizational hierarchy. To defend themselves from questions from above about the root causes of poor performance, senior managers needed to arm themselves with new levels of information to ensure they could professionally answer the questions the C-suite threw at them. ‘I don’t know’ is not an answer many departmental heads like to give to their boss. This drive to have the information at hand to defend their results also provided detailed performance management metrics that ultimately allowed senior managers to try and ensure that there were fewer questions raised in the first place. However, this traditional business intelligence design is based on a very top-down approach; numbers are aggregated from the bottom up so that the big picture is based on something close to reality. Again, this is the appropriate level of data to pitch long-term progress to shareholders, the board and market analysts, but not so useful when it comes to managing the day-to-day operations of a company.

The T-shirts

This rise in demand for business insight naturally led to the creation of new product and service offerings as traditional business intelligence tools were widely adopted across the globe. Organizations soon began to realize that if senior management teams could greatly benefit from data insights, then surely the same could be said for the rest of the company.

It is important to note that the less constrained ‘T-shirt’ mentality is not new. Companies that provide operational analytics such as Every Angle have been banging this drum for nearly twenty years, but it can be argued that it wasn’t until business intelligence was rolled out to the masses, that operational analytics started to be awarded the attention it deserves. Until this point it was only the early adopters and innovators that were benefiting from the power of actionable insight – and was often limited to one or two individuals (such as Supply Chain planners) in the organization.

The T-shirt brigade, as I’m calling them, desire near real-time operational analytics; the bottom-up discovery that enables the user to immediately impact business performance. Insight rather than hindsight. While the suits operate in a more linear fashion, comparing the same data sets across various timelines, the T-shirts work across far more open and dynamic datasets. Business problems and issues change and shift daily, and to react to this business users need to work with software solutions that can also adapt quickly. With the right solution, the T-shirts can sense and respond to these changes in the business environment as they are happening, ensuring that the strategy set out by the suits stands a chance of being delivered.


There is certainly no question as to whether one type of analytics should take precedence over the other; they are both needed and both complementary to each other. The top-down business Intelligence tools provide the right level of detail to define new, company-wide strategies and report on its past and current performance. However, without the aid and support of the more agile and shorter term focused T-shirts, it would almost be impossible to ensure that this new strategic direction is successfully executed.

Together these tools provide an analytics ecosystem that can provide both strategic and operational insights that empower the suits AND the T-shirts to deliver results.

Bill Brazier
UK Country Manager

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