We like to think of analytics as a logical discipline, where investment decisions are consistently rational and predictable. Not so. Customer organisations are driven by all the usual complex and sometimes contradictory forces. Business users want analytics to help them make good customer facing decisions as quickly as possible, while the legal team wants assurances that data usage meets regulatory, legal and ethical standards. The challenge for organisations is to balance all these perspectives and demands within the same analytics system.
Adaptable, powerful, open and unified
There are three key attributes that allow analytics systems to balance the needs of multiple stakeholders: adaptability, power, and being open and unified.
Adaptability can be defined as a combination of agility or flexibility, resilience, speed and scalability. Agility means being able to change quickly to meet new demands, and to meet the needs of different users at the same time. Linked to speed, it gives systems the potential to serve multiple users and deliver answers fast.
Resilience gives reliability, which is essential for building trust and ensuring that all stakeholders have confidence in the system. Finally, scalability means the system can manage high or low demand easily, at speed, and without hugely increased costs. It's critical to start thinking about use cases both from the IT angle - technical/performance/integration - and also from the business perspective. A use case must tick both the IT and business box to get adopted. First to prove the technology works in the appropriate environment, and second to look at the business value – how can we improve a process to impact a customer's bottom line, and make it easily repeatable.
Power has been defined as having two of the same attributes as adaptability - speed and scalability - with the addition of accuracy. Speed is powerful because it allows ideas to be tried and tested quickly, then implemented or discarded at scale. Accuracy is vital because it means fewer errors and more reliable analysis. All stakeholders - whether business users, legal, or those responsible for data protection - must have confidence in the insights generated through analytics.
Finally, an open and unified system is defined as being agile, coherent and well-governed. Cohesion enables better collaboration between stakeholders, and makes results more consistent. This helps meet the needs of several different groups. Groups can use different tools and techniques supported by the same system. Good governance is vital in any system, because it ensures that the organisation can meet any legal or regulatory requirements. But the governance system must also be designed in such a way that it does not prevent business users from doing what they need to do. If it does these users will find a work-around, which may not be compliant with regulations.
Managing stakeholders during the transition
Moving to a system that has these attributes can itself be a challenge in stakeholder management. Like any modernisation project, it's important to ensure that everyone is signed up for the change and aware of the need. If not, there will be resistance. Kotter’s change model sets out the eight steps needed, and experience suggests that there are no short-cuts.
Organisations need to be clear about the vision for the future, as well as explaining why it's important to move to this new state. Both need to speak to individual groups of stakeholders, and also show the importance of the move for the organisation as a whole. Preparation is vital at this stage, because it's easy to lose people early on in the process, and then it takes considerably more time to get them back on board. Resistance will hold up the project, and make it more difficult in numerous ways. Time put in early on will pay dividends later.
Businesses also need to be clear about the process of change, and explain it several times. All stakeholders need to understand what will be happening, when, and how changes will affect them and the way they work. Getting buy-in from all those involved is vital, particularly since old and new systems are likely to be running at the same time and there will be some confusion during the process. Even when you think you've explained something multiple times, there will be people who claim not to have seen or heard it. Communication is key, and it's almost impossible to over-communicate during change and modernisation projects.
An analytics modernisation project which creates a system with the attributes described here, will help manage and balance the needs of different groups of stakeholders much more effectively. And while the process of developing such a system will require stakeholder management, it will all be worthwhile in the end.
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