Determining the Strategic Value of Applied
Analytics in Mission-Driven Organizations
Ross A Jackson1* and Brian L Heath2
1Assistant Professor, Wittenberg University, United States
1Adjunct Professor, Wittenberg University, United States
Submission: April 17, 2023; Published: April 24, 2023
*Corresponding author: Ross A Jackson, Assistant Professor, Wittenberg University, 200 Ward St., Springfield, OH 45504, United States
How to cite this article:Ross A Jackson and Brian L Heath. Determining the Strategic Value of Applied Analytics in Mission-Driven Organizations. Ann Soc Sci Manage Stud. 2023; 8(4): 555742. DOI: 10.19080/ASM.2023.08.555742
Analytics is having a moment socially and organizationally. The promise of analytics in terms of insights and efficiencies is alluring. Making rational investments in this capability requires determining its value. Such a determination, while never easy, is simplified when profit can be the metric of focus. This enables businesses to make this investment like they typically do. The situation is more complex for mission-driven organizations, that can be either for-profit or nonprofit. Without a focus on profit, mission-driven organizations benefit from assessing the value of analytics more holistically. In the process, synergy, solidarity, and efficacy emerge as points to consider when determining the strategic value of analytics.
Linkages between popularity and quality are tenuous and suspect. It seems beyond doubt that analytics is currently popular. Business analytics is being discussed in a variety of contexts. As noted by Delen and Ram, “business analytics is a relatively new term that is gaining popularity in both business and academic circles like nothing else in recent history” . Observing its popularity is one thing; understanding the effect of analysis is altogether different. Assessing the value of something like analytics is complex and, potentially subjective. Any conclusion is likely reductionist. However, intentional progress benefits from such an adjudication, as the process of interrogation and articulation forms a basis for individual and organizational sensemaking. Weick explained that organizations “as open systems” benefit from an awareness and focus on sensemaking since “their greater openness to input from the environment means they have more diverse information to deal with” . The popularity and potential of applied analytics calls for a determination as to its ultimate strategic value. Examining this topic further benefits from an elaboration as to what is meant by the phrase applied analytics.
In general, applied analytics refers to the use of data analysis and statistical modeling techniques to solve real-world problems and make evidence-based decisions. It involves using data to identify patterns, trends, and insights that can inform
decision-making and improve outcomes. Applied analytics can be used across a wide range of industries and functions, including healthcare, finance, marketing, and operations. It can be used in traditional businesses, nonprofits, or mission-driven organizations. These varied contexts can influence the approach selected to communicate the results .
Whereas the focus of this effort is on mission-driven organizations, it is useful to position this understanding based on an examination of nonprofit organizations as popularly understood. Within the context of nonprofit organizations, applied analytics can be used to inform decisions ranging from resource allocation to program effectiveness. That spectrum is not altogether different from what one would observe in traditional, for-profit, businesses. The primary issue is that within the context of nonprofit organizations, effectiveness is determined without the signal provided by profit. Assessing performance analytically within nonprofit organizations necessitates the development of metrics that capture program efficacy. By analyzing data related to project outcomes, donor behavior, and stakeholder engagement, nonprofit organizations can gain analytic insights into their operations and make data-driven decisions that improve their effectiveness and efficiency even in the absence of data related to profitability. These insights, if they are going to be of consequence, need to inform organizational decisions. It is possible to examine
the further complexities of organizations compelled by mission
rather than profit.
Economic theory suggests that most things can be reduced
to a monetary value. There are certainly things amenable to this
approach. Traditional businesses, with a focus on profit, conform
to this theory. Such a valuation, when it works, works well. When
it doesn’t work well, it doesn’t work as well. Within the nonprofit
space one is still able to calculate costs. As an example, one could
calculate the cost associated with providing free meals to children.
However, the value of such an activity is not reducible to its cost.
Mission-driven organizations, either for-profit or nonprofit,
produce value through its activities which transcend the cost or
profit associated with their activities. Analytics within the context
of mission-driven organizations requires an examination of value.
Such a valuation is ultimately subjective but amenable to analysis.
Organizational decision-making refers to the process by which
an institution makes choices based on available information
and resources. It involves the identification of problems, the
evaluation of options, and the selection of a course of action that
is strategically aligned with the organization’s objectives, goals,
and mission. Organizational decision-making can occur at various
levels within an organization, ranging from day-to-day operational
decisions to long-term strategic planning. Across the spectrum
of organizational decisions, analysis can be used as a source of
information and insight. This places the focus not so much on
analysis, per se, but rather on the consequential, organizational
use of the results of analysis.
Effective organizational decision-making requires a clear
understanding of the organization’s objectives, goals, and mission,
as well as external factors that may impact its success. It also
requires access to relevant and accurate data and information, as
well as the ability to analyze and interpret those data effectively.
Lastly, effective organizational decision-making often involves
collaboration and communication among stakeholders, including
employees, board members, and external partners. In the context
of mission-driven organizations, effective organizational decisionmaking
is critical to maximizing its social and community impact.
By making informed decisions based on data and evidence,
mission-driven organizations can optimize their scarce resources
and improve their effectiveness in serving their stakeholders.
Understanding this more fully benefits from a close examination
as to what constitutes a mission-driven organization and how
those organizations differ from traditional, for-profit businesses.
Like nonprofit organizations, that are formed for a specific
purpose other than making money , mission-driven
organizations exist to make manifest a social good beyond profit.
Mission-driven organizations are frequently dedicated to serving a
particular cause or community, and surplus revenue generated by
the organization is reinvested back into it to support its mission.
Mission-driven organizations can take many forms, including
nonprofits, charities, foundations, social welfare organizations,
trade associations, and traditional businesses. Mission-driven
organizations play important roles in society by providing a range
of services and support to communities and individuals in need.
Whereas this is not universally true, they often rely on donations,
grants, and other forms of support from individuals, corporations,
and government entities to fund their operations and achieve
their mission. This variety complicates the ability to measure
performance and apply analytic techniques.
As indicated, one of the main challenges in measuring the
performance of mission-driven organizations are the complexity
and diversity of their missions and activities. Unlike traditional, forprofits,
in which success can be reduced and measured primarily
through financial metrics, mission-driven organizations often have
multiple goals and objectives that are not easily quantifiable or are
considered more important than financial metrics of performance.
As an example, a mission-driven organization focused on providing
education may have goals related to improving literacy rates,
increasing access to educational resources, and promoting lifelong
learning. Alternatively, a mission-driven organization focused on
reducing poverty might have goals related to increasing shared
prosperity, improving employment rates, and ensuring access to
adequate food, shelter, and safety. Each of these goals requires
different types of data and metrics to measure success, and it can
be difficult to determine which metrics are most relevant and
meaningful within a given organization and operational context.
All organizations struggle measuring performance in
a meaningful way. Even when profit is available to use as a
performance metric, there are issues associated with linking
individual contribution to organizational performance. This issue
is complicated further when various time horizons are considered
for linking performance to outcomes. Along with these concerns,
another challenge in measuring the performance of missiondriven
organizations is the limited resources available for data
collection and analysis. Many mission-driven organizations
operate on relatively tight budgets and may not have the staff,
technology, or expertise needed to collect and analyze data
effectively. This can make it difficult to track progress towards
goals and make evidence-based decisions about program design
and implementation challenging. Finally, there is often a lack of
standardization in how mission-driven organizations measure
and report their performance, which can make it difficult to
compare results across organizations or sectors. These situations
can lead to confusion and skepticism among stakeholders,
including donors, board members, and employees, about the
overall effectiveness of a mission-driven organization and their
programs. This situation can be improved through the strategic
application of analytics within mission-driven organizations. Such
a claim is bolstered through an articulation of its contribution to
In traditional businesses, profit becomes a focal point for
organizational discussions and decisions. Analysis can contribute
to synergy in mission-driven organizations by providing a
common language and framework for understanding and
addressing complex challenges. By using data and evidence to
inform decision-making, mission-driven organizations can align
their efforts and resources towards shared goals and objectives.
This can contribute to a sense of shared purpose and collaboration
among stakeholders, leading to greater synergy and impact. One
way that analysis can contribute to this synergy is by identifying
areas of overlap and strategic alignment across different programs
and services. By analyzing data related to program outcomes,
donor behavior, and stakeholder engagement, mission-driven
organizations can gain improved insight into how different
initiatives are working together (or not) to achieve shared goals.
This can help identify opportunities for further collaboration and
resource-sharing, as well as areas where adjustments may be
needed to align better organizational efforts.
By using data and evidence to inform discussions and
decision-making, mission-driven organizations can create a
shared understanding of the challenges they are facing and
improve ways to address them. This can help build trust within
the organization and community as well as improve performance.
Since these improvements occur across multiple stakeholders,
there is potential for the synergy to contribute to a deeper sense
of solidarity among those involved. This concern is particularly
relevant to mission-driven organizations, as solidarity contains
both communal  and organizational  components. This
aspect of solidarity calls for a closer examination as it is outside
the technical aspects of analytics but resides at the core of its
effective organizational enactment.
Solidarity can be conceptualized as an awareness and
cultivation of the sense that those within an organization are
in “this” together. It is not simply about being employed by
the same organization or being in the same department, but
rather solidarity is a deeper connection that goes beyond the
obvious and superficial elements of employment. Solidarity is
about building understanding, respect, connection, and a sense
of shared contribution to efforts transcending self and can be
designed intentionally within an organization. Within missiondriven
organizations, analytics can contribute to the building and
maintenance of solidarity by providing a replicable and more
objective way of measuring impact and progress towards the
By using data and analytics to demonstrate the effectiveness
of the organization’s programs and services, it can build trust
and credibility with stakeholders, including but not limited to its
employees, donors, volunteers, and serviced community. This can
help create a sense of shared purpose and connection among those
involved in the organization and foster a greater commitment to
the organization’s overarching mission. Additionally, analytics
can help identify areas where the organization may be falling
short or where it could improve its impact, allowing for continues
learning and improvement towards achieving the organization’s
goals. In short, analytics can provide a credible basis for focus,
understanding, and impact. Individually and collectively, these
elements hold the potential to contribute to an informed
commitment to the mission-driven organization based on its
Analytics can contribute to measuring efficacy by providing a
replicable, objective way of measuring the impact and effectiveness
of a mission-driven organization’s programs and services. By
analyzing data and metrics related to organizational activities,
analytics can help identify patterns and trends that indicate
whether the organization is achieving its goals and objectives.
Analytics can be used to track website traffic, social media
engagement, and email open rates to determine the effectiveness
of marketing campaigns of mission-driven organizations.
Similarly, analytics can be used to track program outcomes in ways
other than profitability, such as the number of people served or
the percentage of participants who achieved specific outcomes, to
determine the impact of the organization’s programs. By using data
and analytics to measure efficacy, mission-driven organizations
can make evidence-based decisions and continuously improve
their programs and services to meet better the needs of their
target communities and society.
Mission-driven organizations should not adopt analytics
due to its current popularity. It is beneficial for organizational
leaders to distinguish between fads and enduring capabilities
. Despite its current moment of notoriety, the promise of
analytics in terms of insights and efficiencies is both alluring
and legitimate. Analytics can deliver the goods, but the benefits
are not derived simply from “doing” analysis. Mission-driven
organizations benefit from assessing the value of analytics more
holistically in terms of its contributions to organizational synergy,
solidarity, and operational efficacy. Capturing the lasting benefits
of applied analytics in mission-driven organizations requires
those involved to appreciate that its ultimate value isn’t derived
from the robustness and objectivity of its rigorously calculated
answer but from the quality of the radically democratic and open
discussions that ensue as stakeholders make sense of situations
more transparently, intentionally, and in greater solidarity with
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