WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT...
In this article, Dave Tomblin, Business Analytics Engagement Specialist at MHR Analytics, discusses the different levels involved in making data a driving force in your organisation.
In this fast world of technology, nearly everything we do creates a mystical thing called data – from the credentials received when a customer signs up to your e-newsletter, to the flood of information created when a new member of staff joins your organisation.
All of this data holds an immense amount of value and what you choose to do – or equally not to do with this can have a significant impact on your ability to meet your goals and grow as an organisation.
The question is, where are you at in creating a strategy to utilise all of this precious data? In this article, we’ll explore the different strategic levels involved in the process of becoming truly driven by data.
Level 1: Unaware
The first level is the Unaware stage. Here, there are no formal Business Intelligence (BI) & Analytics tools in place, and spreadsheets are at the forefront of all reporting.
Operational reporting from business systems is carried out ad-hoc rather than for strategic purposes, and the organisation generally lacks defined processes for analytics, performance metrics and decision-making.
For organisations at the Unaware level, localised, disconnected decision-making is a prominent theme, and this can present the risk of creating blurred lines when it comes to a business truly knowing where they stand.
Individual teams are responsible for their own data management with little to no collaboration across the organisation. The danger of this is that it creates “silos” within the workplace, with teams focused introspectively rather than looking at the bigger picture.
As no formal BI and analytics applications are used, calculation methods and data sources may vary across the organisation. This can result in rookie errors like unnecessary duplication of data and inconsistent reporting formats, which in some cases can lead to dreaded non-compliance.
Level 2: Opportunistic
True to its name, the Opportunistic level is where an organisation begins to take their first baby-steps in exploring opportunities to gain more insight from their data. A business at this stage may start using a Descriptive Analytics or BI tool to unlock additional reporting capabilities such as data visualisation.
At this level, individual departments carry out their analytics projects to report on activity and support decision-making using their own information, infrastructure, tools, applications and performance measures.
As with at the Unaware level, an organisation that falls into this category will continue to fall short when it comes to collaboration across the enterprise, as there are no standards in place to ensure data practices are consistent between departments. To add to this, there is still no centralised system to hold all of the data produced, so data has to be manually pulled from different areas of the organisation.
Level 3: Standards Led
One element that sets this phase apart from the previous levels is that this is the first point where agreed BI technology standards begin to emerge.
Here, a senior executive becomes the business champion for BI and training is provided in-house to begin to develop data best-practices. This has a knock-on effect, which often leads to people, processes and technologies becoming coordinated across the enterprise.
As technology standards begin to emerge, there is some cross-functional use of applications. Nonetheless, this is by no means perfect, as the sharing of BI models is not consistent, and often at most only one or two processes may share a common master data model. Moreover, there is some sharing of performance measures, but this tends to benefit individual departments rather than supporting the wider business strategy.
Level 4: Enterprise
At the Enterprise level, top executives sponsor the integration of BI and analytics in the organisation, and this makes way for a defined framework of performance metrics. Here, the organisation begins to become driven by data, with executives able to see the cause and effect relationship of key activities, and BI applications heavily supporting decision-making.
In addition to this, this marks the first point where the entire enterprise embraces the same BI and analytics systems, with clear standards in place to streamline processes and ensure that compliance is always met. Plus, a data warehouse may be introduced to analyse data company-wide.
Enterprise Information Management (EIM) and information sharing are prioritised within the wider business strategy and receive significant funding in order to help them to further mature. As part of this strategy, skilled individuals are often employed to carry out sophisticated program management processes, including agile development and rapid prototyping.
Level 5: Transformative
We can think of the Transformative stage as the “crème de la crème” of BI. Here, data is seen as a strategic asset that has the power to generate revenue and sharpen competitive edge. As a result, an organisation at this stage will deploy a full range of analytics and BI applications to support cross-functional and enterprise-wide decision-making.
While organisations at the former levels focus on utilising data to understand what has already happened, a business at the Transformative stage will begin to introduce prescriptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence to look forward. This allows an organisation to identify problems before they’re even aware of them, and prepare for the future years in advance.
At this stage, the CEO sponsors the programme, and the use of BI and analytics become firmly rooted in the company culture. It’s also very possible that at this point, the role of Chief Analytics Officer (CAO) or Chief Data Officer (CDO) has been established – although, users of the technology still come from a wide-range of different backgrounds in the organisation.
Why bother perfecting your data strategy?
Well, apart from helping you to increase your data maturity, perfecting your data strategy will help you unlock opportunities that simply won’t be possible if you stay where you are.
Aligning data across your organisation will give you real-time insights into key departments across the business. Having this knowledge at your fingertips means that you can ensure that departmental activity is optimised to produce better business results.
In addition to this, as you better utilise your data, you begin to move towards becoming a more collaborative organisation. Using enterprise-wide business intelligence to link once disparate departments makes it easier to view your organisation from a birds-eye view so that you can easily spot trends, customer behaviour and peaks in sales.
Overall, this helps to sharpen your competitive edge by allowing you to tap into a number of benefits including more efficient procurement processes, improved customer experience, better marketing strategies and reduced costs.
Business Analytics Engagement Specialist
Dave has over 20 years’ experience in Business Intelligence & Analytics, in addition to expertise in big data, technical delivery & management and client & stakeholder management. Having worked within different vertical markets including banking, manufacturing, retail, and government, Dave has experience through all phases of the project life-cycle, successfully delivering a range of projects within various recognised methodologies.
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