It’s that time of year! Santa is coming! To some, he brings wonderful presents. To others–those who are on the bad list—he brings a lump of coal. Which one will you get this year? Well, not you personally, but your analytics program. Does it work hard for your company and provide you with what you need, or is it on the Bad Santa List?
This is obviously facetious, but there’s a serious underlying concern here. As the year ends, it’s a good time to take stock of how well your analytics systems are working. If it seems as if your analytics infrastructure isn’t delivering value by providing you with the answers you seek, maybe it’s time to re-assess and ask why. There are a few common reasons why analytics doesn’t live up to its potential. I’ll discuss them here and provide some advice on how to address them—and stay off the Bad Santa List.
Analytics isn’t a one-size-or-product-fits-all deal. Every tool or technology that finds its way to the market won’t be right for you. Your business goals should dictate your analytics capabilities. Every tool and technology you’ve deployed should function to meet a defined set of business needs.
Do you use each analytics application in your infrastructure, or are there systems people avoid because they’re hard to use or untrustworthy? Does each analytics tool you use deliver value to the organization? If you don’t like your answers, it’s time to re-assess your analytics infrastructure and make a commitment to choosing the right tools for you, not the software sales person.
The tsunami of unstructured data has overwhelmed most companies’ data governance programs. Many are struggling to develop governance policies for data that they don’t understand and can’t wrangle. As a result, some all but give up and just load the data into data lakes (or similar stores) and hope for usable information from queries and analyses. Hope isn’t really an option if you want to drive value with analytics.
You can govern unstructured data. The key is to hit the sweet spot between flexibility and control. If your governance program is too flexible, your data will be dirty, and no one will trust the answers. Conversely, if you overzealously govern, you’ll reduce the advantage that data lakes and similar technologies can provide when implemented as part of an overall IT architecture. In your governance program, consider all data types and set up policies and procedures for each. Integrate them and govern accordingly.
Technology is ever-changing. Today’s hot technology may be obsolete in two years. The skill sets of your analytics team must change as well. If you’re not getting the value you need out of your analytics systems, despite investing in appropriate tools and hardware, it might be time to assess the composition of your analytics team.
You can ensure that your team members are well-trained. What you can’t ensure is that they want to be trained—that they have the right mindset to embrace change and contribute to delivering analytics value.
In my opinion, besides the foundational ability to solve problems, analytics team members should have the following characteristics:
- Communication skills
Your team must be ready, every day, to take on the problems they face and help answer the tough questions you ask. If they aren’t, it may be time to make some hard decisions.
Bad Leadership and Strategy
Leadership is a delicate issue. No one wants to hear that they lack leadership skills. But most often, it’s not the capabilities of individual leaders that are the problem. Instead, it’s typically that the analytics leadership and strategy is fragmented, both in terms of personnel and goals.
If analytics is left to individual business functions to implement as their needs dictate, the corporate analytics strategy and infrastructure will be fragmented. You’ve read this many times, but I’ll reiterate it because it’s critically important: you must have one person—or at least a small, unified team—in charge of analytics at the corporate level. If you don’t, your fragmented environment will get worse, and your analytics implementation will leak value like a sieve.
The Bad Santa List theme is rather tongue-in-cheek, but the issues I raise here are real. Analytics technology is expensive to implement, and a bad implementation can have a high cost, both for your company and you. As the year ends, take the time to assess your tools, governance plan, team, and leadership and strategy. If you need to make changes, find the money—and the political will—to do it.