The Impact Cycle – how to think of actionable insights

The IMPACT Cycle provides a guiding framework for thinking about the steps for being effective analytical consultant, and can be a tool to help you drive effectiveness through your analytical teams.

By Jean-Paul Isson,, June 2014.

Data is the foundation upon which analytics can have an impact on your business. However, data is necessary but not sufficient in order to unlock business value for your organization. For this, actionable insight is required. I speak to business leaders on a regular basis about their data assets and challenges. It never fails—a common sentiment I hear consistently is that their organizations are drowning in data but lacking in understanding and action from that data.

Said a different way, they have a lot of numbers and stats but aren’t really sure what they mean.

Providing analytical services is somewhat like being a professional translator, helping to convert numbers and trends into something the business can understand and act upon.  However, often analysts are very comfortable deep in the data and not as comfortable translating that data into action.

How do you get your analysts to pull their heads up from the data and focus on the business? It’s not always an easy task, and it’s a bit of an art and a science. Based on experience leading  and building analytics team from the ground up , as well as input I received from researching successful analytical organizations, I developed the IMPACT Cycle to guide your analysts through the process of ensuring they are insightful business partners, rather than just purveyors of data.

Impact Cycle

  • Identify the question. In a non intrusive way, help your business partner identify the critical business question(s) he or she needs help in answering. Then set a clear expectation of the time and the work involved to get an answer.
  • Master the data.This is the analyst’s sweet spot—assemble, analyze, and synthesize all available information that will help in answering the critical business question. Create simple and clear visual presentations (charts, graphs, tables, interactive data environments, and so on) of that data that are easy to comprehend.
  • Provide the meaning. Articulate clear and concise interpretations of the data and visuals in the context of the critical business questions that were identified.
  • Actionable recommendations. Provide thoughtful business recommendations based on your interpretation of the data. Even if they are off-base, it’s easier to react to a suggestion that to generate one. Where possible, tie a rough dollar figure to any revenue improvements or cost savings associated with your recommendations.
  • Communicate insights. Focus on a multi-pronged communication strategy that will get your insights as far and as wide into the organization as possible. Maybe it’s in the form of an interactive tool others can use, a recorded WebEx of your insights, a lunch and learn, or even just a thoughtful executive memo that can be passed around.
  • Track outcomes. Set up a way to track the impact of your insights. Make sure there is future follow-up with your business partners on the outcome of any actions. What was done, what was the impact, and what are the new critical questions that need your help as a result?
The IMPACT Cycle provides the analytical professional with a guiding framework for thinking about the steps of being an effective analytical consultant. It can also be a tool to help you drive effectiveness through your analytical teams.

For more on the IMPACT Cycle and effective use of business analytics, check out our book, Win with Advanced Business Analytics.

Jean-Paul Isson Jean-Paul Isson is a Global Vice President BI & Predictive Analytics Monster Worldwide, and the author of Win with Advanced Business Analytics: Creating Business Value from your Data.  He is an internationally recognized speaker and an expert in advanced business analytics.