The paradox of analytics platforms


We have been talking about analytics platforms for some time, but it does feel a bit like the debate does not inspire the enthusiasm it deserves. A major SAS study on readiness for AI, carried out in spring 2017, found that only 12 percent of respondents felt that their analytics platform was absolutely ready for AI. Almost one-third said that they were definitely not ready, and the rest fell somewhere in between. A more recent study, carried out in summer 2018 and whose results will be published In October 2018, shows that there is still some difference of opinion on analytics platform scope.

So why is it that customers are finding the idea of an analytics platform so difficult?

I think there are three possible reasons.

1. Information overload, or ‘I wish everyone would just stop talking about this’

It is entirely possible that the IT industry has been talking about platforms so much in recent years that everyone else has information overload (oh, no – not another one!). Like a broken car alarm, the noise becomes meaningless – until you look out the window and see that the car is gone. In other words, this may be a modern version of “the boy who cried wolf,” and it could have a similar outcome: lack of attention and big losses as a result. Talk about platforms has become ubiquitous in IT, and I think this is a big part of the problem. We have, as an industry, perhaps failed to explain the real need for platforms (and their benefits), and simply created a lot of noise in the process.

2. Platforms are just too big, and therefore too hard to implement

One of the biggest issues about platforms is that they require planning and cooperation across a lot of teams. This is, by definition, hard. It is much easier to carry on working in the same old silos, not sharing data – and, of course, not getting the benefits from bringing information together to hunt for new insights. I think it is entirely possible that platforms are simply being filed in people’s minds under “much too hard.” Paradoxically, as the scope of platforms grows – and the potential benefits therefore become even greater – the difficulty also increases, making them even more frightening.

The paradox of analytics platform

It may be time to step away from the microphone and allow those who have already implemented platforms to take centre stage.

3. Platforms have too wide a scope, and therefore funding them is hard

Most funding in most organisations is project-specific. But platforms are not project-specific. Quite the reverse, in fact, and that is their biggest attraction. They are mutual: They span multiple projects, and probably multiple generations of projects, once you have built in good future-proofing. This potentially makes a platform much more useful to the organisation as a whole, but it does make it challenging to put together a sensible bid for funding. Either the cost of the platform will exceed the whole project budget, or it will be impossible to justify all the expense on the basis of what is required for the project.

Cutting through the jungle

How to address these three problem areas? As with so many issues, I think leadership is key, but which leaders? Organisational (customer) leaders can solve the second two problems by taking an organisationwide approach to platforms, and seeing them as any other change management project. Only a more holistic view can solve the issue that platforms are too big for individual departments to implement, either in terms of reaching across silos, or identifying funding. That requires C-suite involvement, and ideally a C-suite champion: a chief data officer to get consensus and demand funding.

Individual departments, however, can play a key role in starting to use platforms. Successful use cases act as encouragement to other departments that are tempted to join in. Just because platforms have huge scope does not mean that they need to be used for huge projects only, and from Day 1. Getting value can start early by simply bringing together several data sources and experimenting.

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What about Problem 1, however? How can we solve the “boy who cried wolf” issue? Should the entire IT industry simply stop talking about platforms and leave customers to discover the benefits for themselves? It’s a nice philosophical point because it goes against the whole grain of thought leadership, but perhaps it is now necessary.

Sometimes less is more. It is tempting, when trying to get a point across, to shout louder and louder (metaphorically or literally) to ensure that your voice is heard, but this seldom works well. It may be time to step away from the microphone, as it were, and allow those who have already implemented platforms to take centre stage. Having them demonstrate the value of a platform in action, and how it can improve digital operations, is perhaps the strongest argument that any of us could make.

It may be time to step away from the microphone and allow those who have already implemented #analytics platforms to take centre stage. #AnalyticsPlatform Click To Tweet

About Author

Luca Garlanda

Luca Garlanda is an Information Technology expert, passionate about IT trends, IT value creation and the relations among IT and Business. He is an enthusiast about Big Data, Analytics and the impact of analytical culture in innovation. Luca is currently working on helping enterprises embrace and develop an analytical culture; encouraging them to integrate the analytical approach in their processes; promoting the adoption of analytical solutions to push emulation and innovation.

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