Data is only useful when it’s easily discoverable, meaningful to the people who need to use it, and, above all, trustworthy. But creating real value from your data can be challenging. Here are five roadblocks you might need to address before you can establish a business intelligence program that truly delivers.
1. You have a data ownership crisis
Sure, enterprise data rightly belongs to the enterprise. But data doesn’t just manage itself. For it to be useful, it needs to be stewarded. And that means someone needs to own the data and make decisions about its use. How is the data being defined? What is the appropriate use of the data? What are the rules governing this data? How is this data shared across the enterprise? These may very well be collaborative decisions, but without an identified data owner, those decisions will be made ad hoc, from department to department, with no clear enterprise-wide understanding of who is doing what with your data. Data quality suffers and data value plummets.
2. You’ve been down this path before
Your organization knows it should be getting more value out of its data, so every few years it launches a new BI initiative—which costs a lot, but never quite delivers. And everyone knows it. So whenever you attempt to establish new processes and policies around data, you’re faced with a bunch of skeptics who roll their eyes, sigh, and go about handling their data the way they always have. Driving real value from your data will take more than empty assurances that “this time it will be better.”
3. You’re delivering data instead of information
Most business users don’t really need data—they need information. What’s the difference? Data is simply a building block—a table, a metric, a number. When it’s processed and contextualized (usually, not always, in a report), it becomes meaningful—and when data is meaningful, it gets used. If you continue to deliver “data” to your business users, but don’t provide them with any way to interpret and organize that data and turn it into information, your BI initiatives are likely going to be met with a stunning lack of enthusiasm.
4. You’ve decided technology is the answer
Data warehouse. Check! Data lineage scanning. Check! Self-Service BI. Check! Actionable intelligence? Um, hang on. Indeed, you can throw a lot of technology at your data in the hopes that you’ll realize value from it. But here’s the thing: while IT can do a lot, data is fundamentally a business asset. IT can build a framework to move data safely from one place to another. But the rules governing what happens to that data at any point during that journey should really be in the hands of business users. They understand the origin of the data—and its intended uses. They understand its definitions and know what needs to be done to keep it up to date. And solving business problems requires establishing business processes. If you are only solving for a technology problem, you’re likely not going to get good results.
5. You run from the prospect of ‘change management’
Simply put, finding a better way to drive value from your data involves getting people to think differently about what data means, who’s responsible for it, and how it should be managed and governed. If your organization really wants to drive data value, it will need to figure out a way to help people change how they do things—and even how they think about things. ‘Change management’ sounds expensive, time-consuming, and—to many of you—ultimately ineffective. I like to think of change management in its simplest terms: as a commitment to getting things done. If better data really matters to the business, then you need to make sure everyone across the enterprise—from the top on down—can embrace what it will take to do that.
How can you overcome these challenges and make your data a powerful business asset? Keep an eye out for my next blog where I’ll outline a few simple steps for getting started.
During his 20+ years in consulting services, Simon helped financial services institutions design and implement data governance processes to support regulatory reporting.