Purpose: this paper aims to provide a discussion on the interface and interactions between data, analytical techniques and impactful research in humanitarian health supply chains. New techniques for data capturing, processing and analytics, such as big data, blockchain technology and artificial intelligence, are increasingly put forward as potential “game changers” in the humanitarian field. Yet while they have potential to improve data analytics in the future, larger data sets and quantification per se are no “silver bullet” for complex and wicked problems in humanitarian health settings. Humanitarian health supply chains provide health care and medical aid to the most vulnerable in development and disaster relief settings alike. Unlike commercial supply chains, they often lack resources and long-term collaborations to enable learning from the past and to improve further. Design/methodology/approach: based on a combination of the authors’ research experience, interactions with practitioners throughout projects and academic literature, the authors consider the interface between data and analytical techniques and highlight some of the challenges inherent to humanitarian health settings. The authors apply a systems approach to represent the multiple factors and interactions between data, analytical techniques and collaboration in impactful research. Findings: based on this representation, the authors discuss relevant debates and suggest directions for future research to increase the impact of data analytics and collaborations in fostering sustainable solutions. Originality/value: this study distinguishes itself and contributes by bringing the interface and interactions between data, analytical techniques and impactful research together in a systems approach, emphasizing the interconnectedness.