Over the next few days you think about all the different bits and pieces of data you (might) need to understand. There's HEAPS. Then you brainstorm all the different databases your organisation has created, run, managed, used and accessed over the years. There's a TON. Then you try and think a little bit about how to manage this moving forward. It's a NIGHTMARE.
Before you know it the whole data analytics thing seems like it's just going to be too hard, too impossible, too big, too massive.
In todays blog post I want to have a look at this situation and break it down into some more manageable parts. Read on to find some assistance in your (apparent) nightmare.
The first key to an effective data analytics capability is capturing the experience and knowledge your organisation produces every day. This means your organisation needs to work towards delivering the right information, to the right people at the right time with as little hassle as possible.
These three rights and a no 'h' are really the key to information management. When they're are done correctly, your business will be transformed!!!
To get to this sweet spot of data transforming your company, it's likely that you'll find some pretty challenging issues to solve. Some of them will highly technical and involved, and some will be specific to your organisation, however there are several things I've observed really successful organisations do which always seem to work. Here they are:
Key #1 - Build a culture, not an event
This is perhaps the hardest challenge to overcome and yet in the end, it brings the greatest rewards.
When IM works properly, it captures what each individual does and shares it with as many people as possible without requiring duplication of effort. Put another way, effective IM declutters and simplifies work so individuals can do what they're good at: not waste time clicking through unnecessary IT steps or calling up tech support for (another) time wasting IT problem. This is a long term, ever improving culture, not a one off event!!!
When you create this kind of culture, you are prepositioning your organisation to succeed in data analytics. Individuals will start to see IT as a help, not a hinderance, and as a result, they begin to trust their IM team to assist them with issues.
Key #2 - Build a team, not a computer
Although Information Management is about data, it is the people who use and interact with it who really define the value of an effective IM system. As such, your IM team are critically important.
It is your IM team who will become the collective custodians of your data, and often times the success of your analytics will rest on their ability to access, manipulate and pass the right information to your data scientists. Furthermore, as your analytics capability grows, it will be your IM team who will pass the correct results back to the end users who need it. When this is done right, the culture of data driven business is reinforced and powerful results can be seen.
Key #3 - Start small, grow big
Building a culture and a team is really about expanding a circle of competence, and this starts by solving small problems and growing big. At the start of most organisational journeys there are a host of really critical issues to be solved. These issues may not be technically challenging, or as fun and exciting as analytics, but if they're not solved correctly, it can bring everything to a grinding halt!
As such, start with small areas of information management - solving problems for one team, or one area of the organisation. Take time to review the results (exhaustively) and be clear in feedback to the team about what is working and what is failing. Most importantly, take time to invest in solving the issues correctly.
Key #4 - Embrace Shadow IT
A recent survey found that more than half of CIO's fear shadow IT (this is where individuals within an organisation get frustrated with the current IT situation and go and start creating their own solutions). I remember reading once about a CIO who referred to shadow IT as the root of all the problems within his organisation.
This is interesting to me, because shadow IT represents an amazing opportunity for organisations to innovate and grow. It's quite straight forward to create an environment where people can experiment and play with organisational data in a safe and secure way - and really, if you're building a culture and team of effective IM, why not embrace it?
Key #5 - Resource IM properly
Finally, one of the greatest fears for organisations starting this journey is understanding the $ cost required to get them where they feel they need to go. Truth be told, this often quite a valid fear as the resources required to truly transform an IM system can be large.
Yet in another sense, the $ cost of such a transformation needs to be considered in the context of two factors: what the money is being spent on, and the cost of NOT spending this money, also known as the opportunity cost.
A transformational IM system can literally create efficiencies out of nothing. For example, recently I was asked to justify the cost of building a web-based data system, which my team and I had designed to be fully interactive. We were able to do so by showing that we could reduce the number of times a person had to 'click' for a simple task from 4 to 1 (75%). Using a conservative estimation of 3 seconds saved per click, per person, 30 times per hour, we calculated that we could save the organisation 56.25 minutes per week per person. There were 200 people in the organisation, which meant that we saved the organisation 187.5 hours per week. Then we showed how we could reduce the time taken to fill out forms through pre-filling from simple, contextual data base queries, saving approximately 100 hours per week. Finally, we showed a method of pre-alerting several parties separated by distance of upcoming issues, with a predicted saving of around $100,000 per month. In none of the cases had we required any change in organisational processes or new positions to be added - we had simply started to explore the power of an effective IM system. Yet in the context of savings, we generated several million dollars per month and transformed the ability of the organisation to meet it's needs.
In starting small and building big, and with the right support from the management of the organisation, the organisation is now starting to build a data analytics capability which I am heavily involved in. All from the start of changing how the information system worked.