To tap into the full potential of big data with analytics, the most successful firms are putting the power of analytics into the hands of front-line employees to ensure that insight is available where it is needed most – interacting with customers, prospects, suppliers partners, and other key groups.

Equipping front-line workers with analytics is the most common attribute of those companies that are bolstering business performance through a holistic approach to business intelligence, according to a recent research report from Aberdeen Group. Aberdeen defines a holistic approach as one that values data collection, information assembly, and insight deliver as a cohesive philosophy.

Companies with this type of holistic approach put analytics tools in the hands of 66 percent of the workforce compared to 42 percent of workers with access to similar tools at other companies. The research went on to note that companies taking the holistic tact with analytics enjoyed a 33 percent increase in the amount of usable business data compared to 23 percent at other companies. Moreover, these companies posted a 17 percent increase in year-over-year operating profit compared to eight percent of other companies.

But to take full advantage of the collective power from an integrated analytics approach, many companies are finding the need for a C-suite role – the Chief Analytics Officer (CAO) – to strategically guide the adoption of data-driven decision making.

Momentum for the CAO role is building, notes John Reed, senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half Technology in a recent Computerworld article. “The pioneers see the power in data and the power in harnessing that data for competitive advantage.”

For example, Catamaran, which provides pharmacy benefits management services, hired CAO Andrea Marks in 2013. Leadership recognized that there was value in the data the firm was collecting with analytics but wanted to use that to bolster customer experience.

“When I joined, we had a lot of analytically sound rules engines that we embedded into our clinical products and services,” Marks noted in Computerworld. “We had some good reporting tools. It was really about taking it to the next level – how do we build on this to drive improved outcomes and cost efficiencies across the system.”

Consumer auto web site Edmunds.com also recently added a CAO, Paddy Hannon, to its ranks. Hannon opted to merge about six analytics teams that were spread across the organization into one unit.

“It’s becoming more of a partnership rather than a job shop,” Hannon noted. “We’re moving from using data for insights to using data for action.”

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