Data analytics is a journey. Your organization wants to make the most of the information it collects by using big data to boost business results and the customer experience you offer. However, being successful with big data is about much more than implementing technology. To truly be successful, you must think carefully about the data needs of your organization. To get started on a data analytics journey to digital transformation, follow these seven steps.
Modern organizations might understand the value of data, but too often their analytics activity takes place in a silo. Lessons from successful big data projects rest in pockets around the business, such as human resources and finance, and aren’t always passed around to the rest of the organization. Great insight, as analyst Gartner suggests, is being generated, but the analysis takes place in separate stoves and lessons aren’t shared. To really transform through big data, your business must define what you need to transform. A big data analytics platform can help. With a platform in place, anyone who wants to start a data-related project or data analysis will have an easy way—and place—to get started.
Every company has IT standards. The problem is that every element of your traditional technology stack is being disrupted, and that disruption is taking place on an almost continuous basis. Companies like Amazon, Airbnb, and Uber have succeeded by not having to work to existing standards. Dot-coms have blank sheets of paper from a technology and business point of view. This freedom means that their executives can disrupt and challenge incumbent players—and you must be similarly bold. You need to reinvent and re-envision your processes, and be prepared to break your existing business models.
Embracing disruption, however, does not mean throwing away your entire IT architecture. No business can—or should—rip and replace its application base. Instead, you should move toward standardization as quickly as possible. Be smart enough to understand where things are being disrupted. Don’t throw away old systems just because you can. Smart IT leaders recognize that there can be a marriage between older technologies and innovative big data services. The best way to embrace big data is through incrementalism.
Strong leadership is crucial to big data success. You should put one of your best business developers in charge of implementing a big data platform. Make sure this senior individual has an entrepreneurial attitude. They should be prepared to keep trying new ideas until their plans for big data-led change grow into useful outcomes. In simple terms, your project leader should be prepared to hustle. He or she doesn’t have to be a technologist, but this person should use the available technology to achieve a positive business outcome.
Senior executives understand how early successes help people around the business understand the benefits of big data. Winning often equates to more money for further projects. And success gives people confidence, so get quick wins and celebrate them. Proving initial success means you must also have a way to promote and advertise project success, because your wins must be seen by everyone around the business. Show people how big data can help your business to achieve its goals quickly and effectively.
Performance management must be clear. Too many people feel comfortable staring at numbers, such as revenue, sales, and profits. Rather than simply showing how much money your business made, for example, you should be looking to highlight how that figure relates to targets. Proper insight—with results related to targets—allows executives to analyze business performance. To make the most of big data, your executives need to know whether the result is as expected or, perhaps, even better than you hoped.
IT decision makers cannot afford to rest on their laurels. Your early wins should be a starting point, and then you should extend your success to the rest of the business. You will need to broaden standardization project by project, initiative by initiative, and division by division. You and your team must work in an agile fashion and work with senior managers around the business to decide the next outcome you want to go after together. It’s at this point that the transformation journey really begins. As Martin Draper, CIO at retailer Liberty, recognizes, lasting culture and process change has to happen to ensure your expectations are met.
Technology is a crucial element of your big data platform strategy, but it’s just one element. To really ensure success, the technology must become a key part of your strategy and organization. The data analytics journey will involve a great deal of work. But by focusing on business processes, standards, and culture, you can use big data to grow and succeed.
For more information on your journey to big data success, find out how you can avoid some of the pitfalls that bring down other businesses.
By Mark Samuels