Understanding your audiences and customers better, identifying new opportunities for your business, measuring effectiveness of your tactics, and growing in ways you couldn’t with savvy alone—for many professionals, these are familiar pitches and promises surrounding business analytics.

As volumes of data increase and investments in managing and interpreting those volumes become more routine, there’s a snowballing sense of urgency and fervor in the conversation around analytics. Digital marketing affords unprecedented feedback and reporting on its own effectiveness. Yet there are few clear-eyed assessments of analytics implementation itself. 

One of the few, a new report by The Economist Intelligence Unit titled “Broken Links: Why Analytics Investments Have Yet to Pay Off,” shows that only 2% of business executives believe sales and marketing analytics have thus far achieved “broad, positive impact” at their companies, despite 70% of those executives considering analytics “very” or “extremely important.”

That’s an incredible disparity in beliefs, but the report writers are not worried about the value of analytics itself; they note that across the industry, investments in analytics are still in their earliest phases as professionals (both data literate and non-literate) learn how best to achieve the big impact that some companies have demonstrated.

What that disparity does point out is a need for companies to make smart investments that fully integrate into their businesses—not to just create isolated data teams and divisions, and projects and reports that only make sense to those analysts. From the report:

Overall, and across industries, companies are buying low-cost solutions and getting lackluster results, or solving for parts of what should be an integrated and holistic solution. The survey findings clearly delineate…where companies that “work smart”—rather than simply investing more—can generate transformational, game-changing impact. The approach has to be integrative and multidisciplinary….

Rather than a single chain, imagine analytics in your business as a chain-link fence, every part woven with every other to create a strong wall. In order for your analytics solutions to pay off, they need to become fully integrated with every other part of your business. In the process, the very mindset of analytics—marrying data to intuition, hard skills to soft skills—should be taught and promoted among all types of employees.

Forbes contributor Bernard Marr writes that “according to Wetherill [the leader of the study], that many of the obstacles stopping companies from achieving real value are caused by communications difficulties” between “those working directly with data analytics and those responsible for business performance.” Nobody is surprised that it’s challenging to create a common language between data types and business types, but, as the majority of executives already understand, it is a challenge that must be addressed. Marketing professionals are uniquely positioned to bridge that gap because they work with a foot in each world.

Your analytics solutions will pay off if your company can integrate them not only in pockets and specific applications of the business, but throughout the daily work and decision-making practices of all its employees. That requires a majority of players at your business to become data literate even if they aren’t directly working with data. This may seem daunting, but it’s good to achieve the clarity. If we embrace and overcome that challenge, we will certainly thrive.

Check out how we use data in every aspect of our services to get some ideas for your own work!