Canada adopting analytics faster than US: EY report

Canada is pulling ahead in the race for better analytics, according to a report released this week by EY. The document, Analytics: Don’t Forget the Human Element, highlighted Canada as a leading light in both the adoption and consumption of analytics data.

The company’s Canadian branch surveyed 564 executives, globally, 10 per cent of which were in Canada. Nearly six in every 10 Canadian companies said that analytics are a strategic priority at the executive level.

In the ’90s, computer systems that crunched numbers to provide executive insights were known as business intelligence systems. Analytics today is a different animal, argued Steven Maynard, partner and national analytics practice leader at EY.

“BI in the ’90s was based primarily on historical static data, inside the organization, using descriptive analytics tools,” he said. “Now we are able to use unstructured data, inside and outside of the organization (i.e., social media data), using prescriptive and predictive techniques. The types of questions we can answer using analytics are dramatically different as a result.”

How Canada compares to the rest of the world in terms of analytics software adoption.
How Canada compares to the rest of the world in terms of analytics software adoption. (Graph by EY.)

Thirty-one per cent of Canadian executives felt that analytics has better prepared their organizations to meet today’s challenges, compared to just one in five U.S. respondents.

Figures that show Canada leading the U.S. in adoption of a new technology contrast with traditional perceptions of Canada as a technologically conservative economy, with a lower level of investment and a more risk-averse customer base. Maynard suggested that the pressure of a competitive market is fuelling Canada’s trailblazing approach as companies look to data for a competitive edge.

“The other reason is our regulatory environment,” he said. “Regulations governing transparency and risk management in our financial services sector, for example, require those institutions to put the data analytics foundations in place (systems, data management capabilities, etc.). Advanced analytics capabilities are now being built on those foundations to grow and improve performance.”

One significant statistic in the report revolved around the consumption of analytics. The danger of a sophisticated analytics tool is that it may produce mounds of data that nobody uses. Canadian organizations were particularly good at encouraging the consumption of analytics data, with one in four companies offering bonuses or rewards for new initiatives derived from analytics-driven insights. This compared to 27 per cent in the US.

According to the report, Canada outperformed the global respondent base particularly in the areas of adoption, competitive differentiation, and people-analytics skills.

An effective analytics program can often take considerable computing resources. Small and medium-sized businesses – of which Canada has a large proportion – might find it harder to acquire and configure those resources in-house. Is that a problem for Canadian adoption?

Maynard doesn’t think so.

“Many organizations, including EY, are developing analytics-as-a-service capabilities that others can take advantage of without major investments in skills or tools,” he concluded. “Even large organizations are trying to find ways to avoid complex technology and transformation programs to build these capabilities.”

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Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with over 20 years' experience writing about security, software development, and networking.

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