The word “strategy” can often strike fear in to people. Putting a strategy together has the potential to feel like a huge, onerous task, that’s going to soak up your time. You know you need one, but there are often more pressing matters at hand. Is it really worth it? What true value does it add to your organisation? Peter Humble, BI expert, illustrates that you’re set to gain more than just a pretty report if you choose to undertake an Analytics Strategy Assessment.
Recently I was talking with a colleague whilst preparing for a customer’s assessment, and was asked “Why? Why should a business undertake an analytics strategy assessment?”. I started reeling off my blurb….” it gives them a view and perspective on how they are delivering insight to their business, and assists them in understanding where they are on their analytics journey”.
Now, this is all true, organisations do need a sanity to check as to whether they have the right tech, the right solutions, the right data and the right skills. There are many ways in which we could gather this level of insight and understand the current situation. What is missing is the human element and the knowledge that only someone who is doing the job can provide.
The two-day workshop brings the business and IT together, so a holistic view can be gained of the opportunities and challenges everyone is facing on a day to day basis. A string of interviews are held resulting in the presentation of answers to a pre-built number of questions. However, what really adds value to this process are the intangible soft skills that go with people and business.
We all require a second opinion or review from time to time, whether it’s on the colour of your next car or a restaurant you’re booking for a special occasion: TripAdvisor has made a living out of reviews and opinions. The same applies to business: sometimes you need an unbiased external review.
I remember running an assessment for a well-known consumer products company. They approached the assessment with the attitude of “we have an appreciation for analytics, we’re all over this.” For them, the purpose of doing an assessment was a litmus test, with the possibility of uncovering something additional. As it turned out, undertaking this process uncovered a lot more than what they thought it would and provided an opportunity to rethink several areas, but I’ll come on to that later.
I’ve rarely come across an organisation where there isn’t some form of tension between some (or all) of the business units and IT. These workshops provide a valuable platform from which these occasionally fragile relationships can be strengthened:
- The business feels they’re being engaged with and listened to. Over the course of the workshop, numerous business function stakeholders are invited to provide their feedback on the pain they’re experiencing and the potential opportunities they see ahead.
- IT has the chance to reach out, connect and ultimately listen to the business.
In my experience, IT teams do genuinely want to improve the lives of their end users. However, finding the bandwidth and vehicle from which to develop those relationships isn’t always easy. Recently I was working with a customer in the Oil & Gas industry. Such was the richness and value of the feedback received from the initial set of business functions that they decided to hold additional interviews the following week to engage further business functions and stakeholders.
Encouraging transparency and openness
Human beings don’t like change. The American musician Rosanne Cash said, “The key to change…is to let go of fear”. Easier said than done, though. That natural human instinct of retreating into our shells when frightened is the least productive reaction possible for this kind of exercise. Therefore, it’s critical that both the IT and business function sponsors set the workshop up for success by talking about “why they’re doing this” and “what they will see at the end of it”. Getting buy-in from all involved will benefit the entire process.
One of the worst scenarios arises when those involved in workshops are fearful that the output will involve cuts, or that they are being personally reviewed. It’s vital that everyone involved feels comfortable enough to give a true representation of their world, not what they think either we or the business, wants to hear. Through transparency and openness, significant discoveries can be made. Often the most valuable insight comes from the nuggets of information passed on in-between answering the ‘set’ questions.
“But we really know what we’re doing when it comes to analytics and BI”
Let’s revisit the consumer products company. Many of the teams and their efforts in the BI space were successful, and on the surface, delivering value. However, when you started to lift the lid, it was clear that additional work was still needed in order to deliver the level of insight that the business wanted. Furthermore, some parts of the business had decided to “go it alone”, and although they had seen success, a much closer alignment would have delivered even more value for themselves and the wider business.
It’s about the journey, not just the destination
This isn’t magic pixie dust. At the end of the day, you have to own the findings and work to implement the projects that you see as having the biggest return on investment, or those that provide the quickest wins (depending on what’s required). But if you make it about people and focus on the process of these workshops, rather than just the end-game, you will derive far more value from the experience. After all, your people make your business.
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