The Organizational Strategist

May 5, 2014

Driving Big Data Insights

We’ve heard many things about big data. It is a hot topic in many businesses and has the IT industry scrambling for these capabilities. In my earlier post (Mobilizing a Data Driven Organization), I outlined how to ensure your organization is ready, able to scale/extend the benefits, and mature the overall approach. A specific area that organizations have difficulty is finding the right avenue to make adjustments to their business to ensure the benefits of big data are realized.

-Let’s Make Big Data Real-
Big data comes into play when there is often a large amount of data, multiple different types of data, and changing/evolving/updating data. Without those elements, more traditional data analysis can be done and the new sophisticated BI approaches are not as necessary. Once you have your Big Data solution up and running, there are a handful of key questions and action areas to dive into:

What sort of data should I look for most? – Big data allows for all sorts of intriguing information, but you should ground it on key patterns and predictable trend forecasts. Having multiple sources of information, each with potentially different data quality, data types (qualitative, quantitative, derived, etc.), and applicability means that there will be varying levels of trust and actionable insight you can derive. That’s why focusing on what is most reliable, repeatable, and assured is a good start. As you find the quick wins, low hanging fruit, and so on you can start to expand your sense making into the more experimental areas.

What should I prioritize? – There may be many aspects that are simply to focus on initially like potential highest return on investment for your actions, easiest to implement, minimal impact to your valued stakeholders/customers, areas that should touch on the key pain points (e.g. customer satisfaction, market share expansion, product quality, service bundling opportunities, etc.) and so on. All that being said, it is very important to align to the long term strategy and organization objectives since those should signal short and long term viability of the actions you want to take. This includes a focus on the key performance indicators, target metrics, needs for your business, and tactical advantages it may provide your organization in the marketplace.

How should I take the Big Data initiative into action across my organization? – Now that your big data solution has pulled in the right information sources and you’ve got your focus areas and priorities set, you want to help your organization make the potential benefits your BI insights highlight. It’s important to realize that the bigger your BI solution is and has potential for multiple organizational improvements; the more it will need a concerted effort to build the capacity for changes for short and long term.

For each insight and improvement you see from mining the BI solution do the following-
• Share the finding with all the right stakeholders (it helps to think of stakeholders who are Interested, Informed, Impacted, or Involved in the area to be changed) and the proposed change to take place. This should include the rationale for the adjustment (e.g. impact on the bottom line, increased profits, better quality results, and so on) as said by the key leader and/or manager so it can relate to the stakeholder audiences.
• Pull together the right team to implement the intended change (project managers, analysts, engineers, etc.) to build out or refine the solution area. You want to make certain that you have capable and well aligned people involved so that the intended business results can be seen.
• Standardize the new/improved solution. While there may be straightforward updates or positioning changes in many BI insights, there may be contextual information that needs to be shared, revised process, and/or an adjustment to how to act in the targeted area (different behaviors or skills needed). Additionally, it is important to plan for and check in later on to ensure that the changed area really sticks (e.g. is the process being followed as planned? Were the key messages truly heard and understood?)
You can imagine that for each of the insight and improvements, it can be a lot of work. At a programmatic level, this means building out the long term resources and capabilities to execute those actions. They can be generalized in this way:
• Build a robust steering and sponsoring committee to inform the communication approach. Having the right people who have formal/informal power and influence included in the program is vitally important in carrying the changes to fruition. There should be a regular cadence of meeting to address the potential pick list and ongoing prioritization of changes to invest in. The more often the BI source data changes, the more frequent the cadence should be.
• Pull together a standard communication plan and approach (mapping the right channels, standard types of communications, and cadence to see the changes to fruition). The larger this BI implementation fueled program is, the more you may want to invest in centralized communication vehicles like a company intranet portal (SharePoint or otherwise), a customer/partner facing blog, or other common landing place for information sharing.
• Build up your capacity/resources as needed to bolster and fulfill the plan. Having an incubation team in place will be important. This can become a PMO if there are many different incubation team projects to ensure standardization, effectiveness, and efficiency in the fulfillment of the BI insights. Having standards in place also helps make it easier to gauge the relative success and longer term maturation of the incubation efforts.
• Build and evolve a training curriculum (including relevant infrastructure). The BI insights may be anything from how to straightforward education of consumers to use your products in a different manner to instill a long term behavior change of service delivery. This includes both the content creation as well as having the right people in place to update/maintain and deliver the content.
• Set up a long term governance approach. A good BI solution can likely give short and long term guidance as well as feedback to see where/how the updates are landing. In many cases, the BI analysis will give a whole series of areas to improve upon so this can form a pick list of areas to invest in and see to fruition. To make it so the programmatic, not just one off, changes are instilled there should be a devoted effort to continually evaluate the approaches, experiments, and end results.

-Moving Forward-
The promise of big data has drawn many innovators and companies to devise and start BI solutions. Big data solutions will not lead the intended powerful impact if it does not have the plan and capability to land effectively. Pulling together not only the BI solution, but the support and organizational capacity to fully act on the insights is vital. Be sure to build up the BI and big data resources along with the capability to drive change throughout the organization’s inner and external workings.

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