Very often we find IT leadership puzzled over their starting point with Analytics initiatives. Everyone’s gut feel & common-sense advices them to go ahead & embrace Analytics as yesterday’s need, but the puzzle is more on ‘where from’ aspect than the ‘why’ aspect. This is the primary reason of Analytics decisions getting delayed in many organizations, especially in Middle east. We come across major set-ups with annual business size of over 1 MUSD not having basic descriptive analytics in place & that is pretty much the game everyone is struggling to understand.
When we look at it from an outsider view, at the core of this puzzle is a tussle or to an extent some confusion over the ownership of Analytics. One school of thought with IT domain looks at themselves as the custodian of data & naturally view Analytics as an initiative to build ‘Single source of truth’ – Get the data organized at central place so that it becomes easy for IT to service frequent data needs raised by the business. For sizeable enterprises, often with multiple data generating sources, such initiatives of ‘Single source of truth’ come up with a hefty investment tag & a difficulty of measurable business outcome, hence a dragger in getting sold internally. The question also arises, “Should it be an IT investment”?
Another school of thought which comes from the Business teams on them view Analytics in 2 different ways – depending on their exposure of Analytics world these ways differ. One views it as a departmental reporting exercise, in a way a narrow outlook, to help get their daily/weekly reports faster so that they can service their management. Other views it as an exercise to liberate themselves from dependencies of everyday data struggle with IT & become the controller of their management analytics needs – A Self Service Analytics perspective. Most of the times these views are very departmental focus & find difficulty in getting a buy in from cross functional aspect. Even after passing these hurdles if someone still goes ahead & promotes the initiative, then it boils down to the RoI analysis & the fear factor creeps in minds of the data champions & business SMEs –“Will I become obsolete due to Analytics”?
Now when you look at these 2 schools of thought, it is evident that the drivers of these groups often find themselves in Catch 22 situation & hence they delay the decision of embarking on Analytics journey.
Obviously, there are no set rules of solving this puzzle, but there are guidelines which can help solve it, that we have been using while advising our clients over last 15+ years.
First things first, Analytics initiatives are to be treated as strategic & must be driven Top-down by CxOs. So, Yes, these are in most of the cases to be driven by business. A departmental view can be a starting point provided the CxO has understood the value & empowered someone in his org to run with it. A bit of internal homework in solidifying a business use case & putting together a high-level plan are prerequisites, this is a no brainer, but often gets ignored in the jubilance. We have seen that most of the business SMEs understand value of Analytics, but they find it difficult to create a package which will help them sell internally to management & this is where professionals in Analytics field come handy.
Unlike application development type of projects which have a clear start & end point, analytics is an evolving piece, a journey of maturity stages. It should be looked at exactly as our growing process, flourishes over years if passionately pursued & consistently backed by the leadership. The benefits of Analytics are multifold with many byproducts like process improvements, savings thru’ systemizing the tasks etc. apart from the core business benefits. These get realized over months/years of usage & practice of Analytics in daily life. So essentially, it is a roadmap that is needed to be prepared when proposing Analytics internally & it can very well be 2-3 years of roadmap to start with. That is where the narrow views of reports automation & getting self-service for myself need to be broadened with a holistic picture & hence the involvement of leadership team in overall roadmap preparation plays a key role.
A simple thumb rule of daily life, bite what you can chew, is applicable in Analytics as well. Even if the roadmap is essential aspect of preparation, the delivery must be planned in chunks. (not using the term Agile here for reasons, to be tackled in a separate blog) This is where the IT leadership needs to get involved & help shape up the roadmap. A use case-based approach of execution with measurable outcomes for use cases always works with Analytics. Apportioning costs of execution by use cases & prioritizing the execution of use cases solidifies the roadmap, also helps in keeping the capital outflow to sane levels when you look at annual aspect for approvals in these times.
Analytics is a mirror; shows how exactly you are. This is exactly the most important pointer; the organization needs to understand. Both business & IT need to be aligned in determining where the organization stands in terms of readiness of data gathering systems. It helps in prioritizing the Analytics use cases for execution, if your data generating systems are ready & mature, the uses cases based on them should be the best candidates to be prioritized. Any shortcuts like building Analytics on manual feeds like excel, looks great showcase in a short term but eventually leads to chaos & maintenance overheads in long run, leading to failure of initiatives. Culmination of all of these or some of these guidelines generally help in solving the puzzle of starting point of Analytics.