Five lessons in analytics from Jim Goodnight and Pierre Nanterme


Last year Jim Goodnight shared the stage with Bill Green (the then CEO of Accenture) and talked about what it takes to build an analytical organization. This year Dr. Goodnight was with Pierre Nanterme, the current CEO of Accenture and they talked about what it means to lead an analytical organization.

Before the session started, the audience members were asked whether “Today’s business leaders have a thorough understanding of business analytics and rely on them far more than instinct or gut-feel.” Only 31 percent thought they do, with the majority 57 percent disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.

In a discussion facilitated by Mark Jeffries, Jim and Pierre covered a number of topics, sharing with the audience their experience as CEOs of large, successful companies. They were especially forthright about how it is incumbent on leaders to find ways to take full advantage of the edge analytics can give their organizations. Both CEOs think that there is a long way to go, but the world has changed and organizations need analytics to deal with global volatility, complexity and pace of change. In particular, CXOs need to be better informed because they are working in a connected world and have to fully use their strategic asset of data.

Pierre shared his view of analytics in action: firstly, he sees analytics in use across many industries, not just the traditional “data intensive industries.” His experience shows that all board members are engaged in using analytics to make more informed decisions, citing the example of the “decision cockpit” at Proctor & Gamble. Acknowledging the move from descriptive analytics to predictive analytics, Pierre says that more CEOs are recognizing the strategic value of analytics and the later adopters will have to play catch up just to achieve competitive parity with the leaders.

Jim has seen a doubling of demand for SAS' short course on Analytics for MBA training, with over 50 professors attending the training at SAS this year.

Mark Jeffries, Jim Goodnight, Pierre Nanterme

Pierre sites three big drivers for analytics in business: growth, business efficiency, and risk & compliance. He says Accenture is investing heavily in developing unique analytic skills and techniques globally. Currently for Accenture, analytics in the field of talent management is a huge area. They are a people company, and retention of key staff directly affects the bottom line, especially in those fields where there are severe skills shortages, like analytics.

Jim says that the most important thing a CEO can do to foster a culture of exploiting analytics is to lead by example and show how you rely on analytics to support the decision-making process.

In an answer to a question from the floor, Pierre said the art of management will still be on turning a prediction into an appropriate action. Jim noted that this already happens at a transactional level, by employing predictive tools in, for example, recommendation engines. In the digital world, this allows us to get closer to the customer's expectations.

My five takeaways from this session would be:

  1. Although the audience have yet to be convinced, our CEOs see a much better take up of analytics across businesses and sectors.
  2. More CEOs are recognizing the strategic value of Analytics as a competitive advantage, and the later adopts are now trying to catch up.
  3. There is a definite move from descriptive analytics to predictive analytics – with opportunities to address problems before they become issues and recognize opportunities in a timely manner.
  4. You have to know what you want to achieve (growth, risk & compliance, or efficiency in a volatile world).
  5. There is value in data, but your data has to be managed.

About Author

Peter Dorrington

Director, Marketing Strategy (EMEA)

I am the Director of Marketing Strategy for the EMEA region at SAS Institute and have more than 25 years experience in IT and computing systems. My current role is focused on supporting SAS’ regional marketing operations in developing marketing strategies and programs aligned around the needs of SAS’ markets and customers.


  1. Faye Merrideth on

    Thanks for your post, Peter. Especially liked, "Jim says that the most important thing a CEO can do to foster a culture of exploiting analytics is to lead by example and show how you rely on analytics to support the decision-making process." In PR interviews, I always ask customers if their employees know the senior executives rely on analytics for decision making. Most say "yes."

  2. Pingback: You can’t optimise 270 million SKUs based on “gut feel” - SAS Voices

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