How to Build an Insights Engine: The People, Technology, and Culture You Need

Madeline Jacobson
5 mins
insights engine team in meeting with laptops

Enterprises have access to a wealth of data sources, research tools, and people skilled at pulling meaningful insights out of data–the challenge now is distributing those insights to all the decision-makers who can benefit from them.

At many organizations, insights are siloed within specific teams, buried in email inboxes, or lost in slide decks that a few senior decision-makers glanced at once. And when stakeholders can’t find the insights they need, they’re more likely to default to making decisions based on assumptions or feelings. One survey found that in 58% of organizations, more than half of business decisions are based on gut feelings or experience rather than data and insights.

However, the businesses that are successfully embedding insights in their decision-making process are seeing the benefits in terms of revenue growth, greater innovation, and a better customer experience. 

The key to increasing the reach and impact of insights is to establish what the Harvard Business Review refers to as an insights engine: a function that doesn’t just field market research requests and supply data, but that distills insights and makes strategic recommendations.

An insights engine requires a combination of the right people, technology, and processes to increase the accessibility and visibility of insights, ultimately empowering stakeholders to make customer-centric decisions. Below, we’ll take a closer look at the essential ingredients in a successful insights engine.

Interested in learning even more about building an insights engine? Check out our interactive guide for an insights maturity quiz, ROI calculator, and more.

People: The Skills and Knowledge to Deliver Impactful Insights

Your organization’s people and their knowledge are its biggest strategic advantage. And an insights team with the right balance of skills to interpret data and communicate their findings are an essential component of an insights engine.

Analytical and Creative Thinking

Insights teams have traditionally focused on interpreting data, so it’s no surprise that many people drawn to this field are highly analytical. But a successful insights engine requires a combination of analytical and creative thinking: people who can analyze data, uncover the insights that matter most, and present their insights and recommendations in ways that resonate with their stakeholders.

Understanding How Insights Support Business Goals

Insights professionals must be able to see the forest, not just the trees. Kantar Vermeer’s i2020 study found that 75% of respondents from high-performing firms believed their insights teams were business-focused, compared to only 50% from lower-performing firms. Advanced insights teams consider the business impact of their work–and tailor their insights delivery to support the needs of different stakeholder groups. 

Storytelling and Marketing

For insights to have a meaningful impact on an organization, insights team members must know how to market to their internal audience. And one of the best ways to market to this audience is to transform data and insights into compelling stories that make stakeholders want to take action.

Technology: Increasing the Visibility and Reach of Insights

People are the foundation of a powerful insights engine, but an insights management platform–that is, software that helps teams make their insights accessible, searchable, and digestible–elevates the contributions of those people, encourages collaboration across functions, and allows businesses to act on insights in innovative ways.

A Single Source of Truth

An insights management platform centralizes research and content that may have previously been scattered across multiple repositories. This means both insights team members and stakeholders have a single place to go for all finalized research and can be confident the information they are accessing is up to date.

Search Across All Content Types

For many organizations, it’s not a shortage of data and insights that’s the problem–it’s surfacing the right information to inform decisions at the right time. A good insights management platform will deep index all content so that everything becomes searchable, including words spoken in video and audio files. 

Insights Amplification

An insights team should amplify the voice of the customer and the market, and an insights management platform is the megaphone that helps them do this. Ideally, the platform should give insights teams multiple ways to get information in front of stakeholders. While the platform itself should be the go-to place for accessing insights, teams might also curate content from the platform to share in email newsletters or send notifications about new content to Slack or Microsoft Teams.

New Ways for Stakeholders to Engage

One of the most powerful elements of an insights management platform is that it gives insights teams a direct channel through which to engage with their stakeholders (and vice versa). Stakeholders can add comments or ask questions to learn more about resources, and insights teams can look at the platform’s engagement metrics to better understand what content is being interacted with the most (and least). This can help uncover knowledge gaps, new research questions, and insights that are having a big impact.

Culture: Embedding Insights Across the Organization

Having a data-driven culture pays off: according to research from Deloitte, businesses with a strong analytics culture are twice as likely to exceed their business goals than those that are less mature. Unfortunately, only 37% of business leaders say their organization has a strong data and analytics culture.

Establishing a mature data and analytics culture requires organizations to make it the norm to share insights and leverage them in decision-making. And this isn’t a one-time activity. Once an insights engine is up and running, it’s important for insights team members to demonstrate and encourage the behaviors they want to see across the business.

Make Insights Sharing as Easy as Possible

Packaging insights for stakeholder consumption can require a lot of work, from synthesizing data across different sources to distilling the results to key takeaways that stakeholders can easily digest. While this work requires human input, technology can take on some of the heavy lifting, making it as easy (and repeatable) as possible for insights team members to share their knowledge. For example, you might adopt an insights management platform that automatically generates summaries of PDFs or other text-based documents to save team members from having to manually craft a summary for every report. 

Keep Promoting Desired Behaviors

It can take a while for people to establish new routines, and some of your team members or stakeholders may initially revert back to old behaviors after you launch your insights engine. When you see this happen, model and encourage the new desired behavior. For example, if a stakeholder sends you an email asking a research question, you could send them a link to a document answering their question in your insights management platform, or encourage them to post the question in the platform if it doesn’t have a documented answer.

Educate Stakeholders on Market Research with Self-Serve Resources

In addition to sharing finalized research reports and insights, give your stakeholders an opportunity to learn more about what you’re working on. Consider sharing educational resources on different research methodologies, data sources, tools your insights function uses, and so on. Encourage stakeholders to ask questions in your insights management platform (and make sure your team answers them in a timely manner) so your organization’s collective intelligence continues to grow.

Offer Ongoing Training on Data-Driven Decision-Making

According to research from Deloitte, more than two-thirds of business decision-makers express discomfort accessing or using data. Help your stakeholders overcome this discomfort by offering regular training sessions on using data and insights in decision-making. Between training sessions and self-serve resources, stakeholders should feel better equipped (and more empowered) to leverage your insights team’s findings.

People, Technology, and Culture: The Essential Elements of an Insights Engine

Building an insights engine requires your organization to move away from a traditional research provider model, where insights teams reactively respond to line manager requests and insights frequently become siloed, to a more strategic model, where insights teams make their findings and recommendations accessible and actionable for stakeholders across the organization. This can only be done with a focus on people (cultivating the right skills and knowledge), technology (making it easy for decision-makers to access and use insights), and culture (making data-driven decision-making the norm). Investing in all three of these areas will allow insights to become a true competitive advantage.

May 4, 2022

The Interactive Guide to Building an Insights Engine

Explore this interactive guide, which includes an insights maturity quiz and an ROI calculator, to learn more about how you can build an insights engine and increase the impact of customer insights across your organization.

Explore Now
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