INSIGHT: How NZ businesses can develop a winning analytics strategy
- 14 May, 2015 06:46
Now more than ever, organisations of all types and sizes are adopting analytics for insights to better decision making.
However, unless adoption is backed by the right strategy, the outcome won’t necessarily deliver the advantages sought.
The strategy challenge starts with managements being able to clearly articulate what they want to achieve.
Without that clarity, organisations risk development outcomes that will be delayed, over-budget, incomplete, miss the right areas, or turn out to be not much better than experience-based gut-feel.
In addition to clearly knowing what they want to achieve, organisations must be confident they can deploy the resources required for successful adoption; that, while the project is underway, it won’t adversely impact day-to-day operations; and that the end objective is realistic.
It’s all too easy to get things wrong by being overly ambitious.
There are three core issues to be considered at the outset.
Take analytics adoption one step at a time:
When organisations recognise they are missing opportunities without analytics, there is an understandable tendency to want to hurry and play catch-up. This is a big mistake.
Being late is much less of a problem than aiming for a level of analytics sophistication that can be attained in small, manageable steps over time. A far better approach is to start with modest objectives and then build incrementally from a solid foundation.
Avoid the temptation to seek the added benefits of advanced business analytics before bedding down an initial implementation.
Less capable but equally robust analytics levels can still produce good and reliable business outcomes to get the organisation into the game.
Going for broke at the outset is high risk for both the organisation and the individual managers involved. Statistically, the odds will be against them and the return might be no better than money back.
Design the strategy for an analytics outcome that can actually be used:
It is not uncommon for analytics late-starters to strategise for functionality they won’t be able to take advantage of in the nearer term.
As with addressing analytics capabilities one step at a time, implementers should concentrate first on analyses outcomes to support functionality for operations that are already mature.
There is no point in designing real-time time functionality for organisational processes that will be unable to take full advantage of it; or indeed, to support organisational change that is yet to happen.
So avoid the killer strategy. A much better approach is a less ambitious set of deliverables in incremental usable stages. The roadmap should have defined outcomes for each capability in a prioritised sequence.
Keep in mind that just as analytics implementers tread a safer path by not rushing, users of analyses need to be able to properly digest what they are progressively given to work with.
Don’t be distracted:
Having set the objectives, stay with them. As the analytics journey progresses, avoid being distracted by a growing realisation of what else is possible. Analytics technologies are rich and always evolving.
They will continue offering additional functionality and performance, and the promise of enticing business value outcomes that may not have been considered when the journey began.
However, pushing the performance and technology frontier too early can result in excessive effort being spent on proving the viability of a theory, rather than developing a sound capability and delivering consistently useful results at the earliest time.
As with any project, the only thing that really matters is improving business effectiveness. In the case of analytics, this means enabling users to uncover valuable insights that would otherwise remain hidden from them.
It’s all about winning hearts and minds by proving that leveraging information assets for business gain is both possible and manageable.
Developing an initial level of analytics capability that can be enhanced over time represents a significant business transformation. As with any other transformative initiative, the focus should be on relentless execution and the acceptance that ideology must be sensibly balanced against pragmatism.
Objectives that result in analytics capabilities that are inappropriate, incomplete or late were wrongly set in the first place. A brilliant strategy that cannot be delivered should rightly be considered a failure, but it happens.
Too many organisations seek the ultimate without due attention to core capabilities and getting the basics right.
When that happens, the end result is a poor return on a significant investment, a jaundiced view of analytics that will be hard to overcome, and a serious hit to the organisation’s collective morale.
For analytics success – set a realistic strategy to deliver insights the existing organisation needs and can quickly take advantage of; focus the available analytics skills on what can be achieved in the nearer term, building on that platform over time.
Without being inflexible, avoid extending the project by technology distractions, and then adapt and refine as skills mature.
Good decision making into the future depends on pragmatism from the outset.
By Geoff Beynon - General manager of SAS Institute New Zealand