At the 2017 Digital Summit conference in Denver, the representatives of firms ranging from Facebook to Marriott emphasized the importance of data and analytics. At times, the topic seemed to possess a religious weight, as though each speaker were describing some new orthodoxy or way of life.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, corporate spending seems to support this impression. The authors cite IDC statistics “estimating that global business investments in D&A will surpass $200 billion a year by 2020.”

Yet executives often approach D&A with the wrong priorities. As the article observes, too many leaders view D&A as a system of “data warehouses that perform back-office functions” rather than as a “key contributor to the development and execution of the business strategy.” The HBR authors further point to deficits in foresight, buy-in and proper framing as the causes of high failure rates across D&A initiatives (over half, by one study). From several case studies, the authors draw rules of thumb: ensure that D&A has executive buy-in, make it a company-wide commitment, and incorporate it into strategy.

Ultimately, the article joins the voices of the Digital Summit in affirming D&A as the new normal:

In an age where data is created on a scale far beyond the human mind’s ability to process it, business leaders need D&A they can trust to inform their most important decisions — not just to reduce costs but also to achieve growth. And the best will use D&A to anticipate what their customers will want or need before they even know they want or need it.

You can read the entire article on HBR’s website.