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Establish the Strategic Framework for Your Transformation Journey

In a recent blog—Identify High Value Opportunities on your Transformation Journey—I wrote about how each organization's path is tailored to their own initiatives, and that the first step regardless of industry or business line, should be to Identify high-value opportunities to exploit analytics on all types of structured, unstructured and real-time data. Once that's done, where should you go next?

Step Two on the Journey: Establish the Strategic Framework

Where the "Identify" step created the "master list" for realizing the data and analytics benefits, the "Establish" step will start building on that plan, starting with your most pressing needs.  And the first thing you want to do is to define your data and analytics strategy—all with keeping the business outcomes in mind.  

What Does a Data & Analytics Strategy Consist Of?

I think of it as a "constitution" for your data and analytics efforts—your beliefs, your policies, your standards—and a set of guiding principles.  In my opinion, its primary purpose is to gain consensus across many different quarters of your organization so that you're all moving in the same direction. Thorny issues like "who leads?", "who needs to approve?", "who supports the efforts?"  are best discussed upfront to avoid challenges and hiccups later.  And like other "constitutions", it can and must be amended as conditions change. Nothing is forever.

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For many, they want to jump right in start building. It's a natural reaction. Executing on proofs of concept (POC) is a necessary activity. But it's also not the first thing you should do. Consider the following actions that begin to flesh out the POC

  • Develop a goal-oriented architecture for business and IT: Determine the right computing environment. Develop a clear, goal-oriented technical architecture.  Is this to be solely based in the cloud? What current infrastructure and assets could be leveraged? What more is needed? What constitutes success?
  • Think beyond today: Choose an infrastructure that's easily scaled and sharable as teams and demands change.
  • Which capabilities are most critical for the first use cases: Ask what software and services are needed to realize these first use cases. If, for example, self-service analytics is needed, make sure you look at augmented analytics capabilities to enrich the analysis experience, invisibly serving up insights generated through machine learning—for example, forecasting or explaining drives—that might take hours to get to through trial and error.
  • Plan how data and analytics initiatives will run inside and outside the organization: Make sure you are including on premises, in the cloud (public or private), as a service and hybrid (a mix of cloud and on-premises or other deployment methods). Evaluate methods carefully to build an environment well-suited to exploring and discovering data relationships and correlations that foster additional insights.
  • Gain support among business and IT as you move forward: To help deploy the right capabilities at the right time to realize maximum benefits, you must keep everyone engaged in the evolving plan.

There is lots of external content you can tap into to help you develop this strategy. Some examples include "How to Craft a Modern, Actionable Data and Analytics Strategy That Delivers Business Outcomes" by Gartner analysts Mike Rollings and Frank Buytendijk, and "Build The Digital Intelligence Strategy That Will Match The Speed Of Your Customers" by Forrester analysts Cinny Little and James McCormick.  Both require subscriptions to access.

Seek Professional Help

Remember that tapping external expertise—partners with experience solving data and analytics challenges—can help ensure the right strategic direction earlier, with greater certainty. Many organizations  I've spoken with over the last few years have had great success working hand-in-hand with partners big and small to assist them through the process.   Their wealth of experience over years with other customers in specific lines of business and/or industries can give you the benefit of collective wisdom that will accelerate your efforts.

Establishing the right strategic framework for your business and IT lets you plan.  Setting a strategy at this point gives structure to your efforts.  Of course, this structure can't be rigid and unchangeable; it must be flexible enough to adjust and change based on what you uncover as you prove out your plan.  That's the next step.

Let me know your thoughts and leave a comment below.

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