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The Business of Data and Business Analytics: Reporting IT Value in Business Terms
By David Beckerman, CIO, The Pasha Group
It’s critical that IT creates a direct line of sight between investment and business outcomes. However, communicating value and justifying an investment in Data and Business Analytics or Business Intelligence (BI) program can often be elusive. BI initiatives may be interwoven with an overall improvement plan or designed around providing business insight. In this context, it can be difficult to precisely identify the unique value created from a BI investment.
“Data and Business Analytics programs need to drive change to produce value”
Fortunately, through experience and reflecting on past successes, a BI investment can be framed with predictable value. Besides, value can be created by leveraging new insights, targeting initiatives and optimizing resource allocation. However, the blueprint of a successful BI program requires certain fundamental inputs and competencies to be established. Once done, a framework can be created to predict expected value of a BI related initiative.
Developing a Data and Business Analytics program, which can predict value, relies on mature business capabilities as well as robust system platforms. In fact, since these elements are foundational, a BI related initiative should be avoided when these business skills and system architecture are not in place.
Data and Business Analytics programs need to drive change to produce value. Data and analytics will find areas to improve; either through operating efficiencies, creating more customer value or minimizing abuse and waste. One of the core attributes required for successful Data and Business Analytics is having the business motivation and the ability to influence change, as it will fuel innovation. Conversely, without change management, innovation and the resulting value is stymied. To drive change, the operating business needs a high level of rigor around process management. Processes need to have measureable audits and be capable of change. Metrics will ultimately demonstrate improvements to operational and financial measures.
It is likely that change brought on by a BI initiative will be met with some level of resistance. This should be expected, and management needs to have the foresight to anticipate this. Change, and the related innovation requires perseverance, including the full support of an executive; senior leadership involvement is a critical success factor. To draw on an analogy borrowed from The Pasha Group's maritime history; Data and Business Analytics is the engine, Business Capabilities is the rudder. A pilot who steers and manages the power of BI will outperform his rivals. In addition to mature business capabilities, Data and Business Analytics initiative needs to have a mature and reliable systems platform.
Data architecture and management is the technical cornerstone. Architecture is the foundation providing scale, reliability and cost effectiveness. In addition, extended products can be leveraged and standardization supports a common stack and resource base. This infrastructure can be shared throughout an enterprise, including external partners and ultimately with customers. IT should be positioned to exploit and experiment with extended digital products including mobile and dashboards.
The underlying data requires a cross functional understanding that facilitates enterprise wide data definitions and a confidence that the data is accurate for use by all levels of an organization. The data needs to be trusted and based on the same business process audit rigor and change control referenced in the previous paragraph.
Strategic support is critical. Data and Business Analytics program affect organizations, processes and priorities. Strategic support ensures the program maintains momentum while also helping to navigate any organization resistance or slowness in adoption.
It is also incumbent on IT to have the relationship skills to sustain the value proposition in the digital age. It doesn't seem intuitive that the success of Data and Business Analytics is based on relationships, however, it is active engagement with people—internal and with an external ecosystem—that drives analytics and digital technology. With foundational change management capabilities and a system framework in place, an enterprise will begin to understand initiative characteristics that can predict value.
Similar to any investment, a BI initiative must identify the business context, “why” it's important and to identify any quantifiable goals that will be affected. Having this information prior to an initiative will help with executive support and provide a benchmark to measure outcomes. Quantifiable goals are critical to success, but the “how” may not be revealed until the program delivers. By presenting key data to executive leadership, their strategic engagement can champion initiatives and further optimize resource allocation.
In summary, by demonstrating a feedback loop of improvements, the Data and Business Analytics program will establish BI as a critical tool to achieve strategic objectives with predictable value. In addition, the value of BI will be demonstrated in a higher level of enterprise agility and the ability to maximize the value of resource allocation.
At The Pasha Group, our Data and Business Analytics program is thriving. BI related initiatives continue to exponentially grow and have been leveraged for acquisitions, process improvements and customer value. Initiatives consistently yield valuable business insights and enable strategic allocation of resources. Our success is based on a culture which strives to continue to improve and provide value for the enterprise and our customers. IT's role is to rely on highly motivated and talented people, a robust system architecture, a legacy of being empathetic, and delivering a competitive edge.